Citation: Virella Perez YI, Medlow S, Ho J, Steinbeck K. Mobile and web-based apps that support self-management and transition in young people with chronic illness: Systematic review. Journal of Medical Internet Research 2019;21:e13579



Background: More adolescents with chronic physical illness are living into adulthood, and they require the development of proficient self-management skills to maintain optimal physical health as they transition into adult care services. It is often during this vulnerable transition period that deterioration in illness control is seen as a result of inadequate self-management skills and understanding of their chronic illness. Mobile technology has been proposed as an innovative opportunity to assist in improving the management of chronic conditions as young people transition to adult care services. Over the past 5 years, there has been a significant increase in research into the use of health-related apps.

Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the utility and effectiveness of mobile and Web-based health apps that support self-management and transition in young people with chronic physical health illnesses.

Methods: We conducted a comprehensive review of the literature in 5 bibliographic databases, using key search terms, considering only articles published from 2013, as we were extending the data from 2 previous systematic reviews. Abstracts were screened for possible inclusion by 2 reviewers. Data extraction and quality assessment tools were used for the evaluation of included studies.

Results: A total of 1737 records were identified from the combined electronic searches, and 854 records were removed as duplicates. A total of 68 full articles were further assessed for eligibility, and 6 articles met our review criteria: 3 pilot studies, 2 randomized controlled trials, and 1 prospective cohort study. Publication years ranged from 2015 to 2018. The apps reported were targeted at type 1 diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, asthma, beta thalassemia major, and sickle cell disease, with a combined sample size of 336. A total of 4 studies included in this review reported being effective in increasing knowledge of the targeted condition and increasing therapy adherence, including increased medication adherence. A total of 2 manuscripts only mentioned the word transition. Participant’s satisfaction was reported for all studies. Heterogeneity of the studies prevented meta-analysis.

Conclusions: There remain limited data on the effectiveness and use of mobile and Web-based apps, which might facilitate the transition of adolescents with chronic illnesses from pediatric to adult health care services. This systematic review provides an updated overview of available apps for adolescents with chronic illnesses. This systematic review has been unable to provide evidence for effectiveness of this approach, but it does provide insights into future study design, with reference to the development, evaluation, and efficacy of apps tailored for adolescents with chronic illnesses, including the involvement of adolescents in such designs.

About The Authors


Dr Sharon Medlow is a Senior Research Fellow in the Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health at the...


Kate Steinbeck is an endocrinologist and adolescent physician, and Professor and Medical Foundation ...