Skip to content Skip to navigation

Mobile Devices, Internet Help Spur Healthy Behaviors, Research Finds

September 7, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints

People are more likely to adopt heart healthy behaviors when they are guided and encouraged via the Internet, their cellphones or other devices, according to a review of more than 200 studies published over 23 years in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the open access journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Researchers reviewed 224 studies conducted on generally healthy adults, published between 1990 and 2013. The studies evaluated the effect of using Internet, mobile phones, personal sensors or stand-alone computer software tools to inspire behavioral changes, such as improving diet, increasing physical activity, losing weight and stopping/reducing tobacco or alcohol use. Among the findings:

  Participants in Internet interventions improved their diets, became more active, lost body weight/fat, reduced tobacco use and cut excessive alcohol use.

 Participants in mobile device interventions (using smartphone apps or receiving text or voicemail messages) increased their physical activity and lost body weight/fat.

“Both Internet-based and mobile-based programs can help people become more physically active, eat better and achieve modest weight loss over 3 to 12 months,” said Ashkan Afshin, M.D., lead study author and acting assistant professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Programs that have components such as goal-setting and self-monitoring and use multiple modes of communication with tailored messages tended to be more effective. “We also found these programs were more effective if they included some interactions with healthcare providers. Clinicians, in particular in primary care settings, can use such programs to help people improve their lifestyle behaviors and reduce the risk of chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” Afshin said.

The available research is limited because most studies lasted less than six months, providing little information on how effective and sustainable the behavioral changes will be over the long term. In addition, most studies were conducted in high-income countries with volunteers who were generally more highly educated and motivated than the general public, according to an American Heart Association press release.

“Our study highlights several important gaps in current evidence on Internet-and mobile-based interventions. We need to evaluate their long-term value, effectiveness in different populations (such as the elderly and people from developing countries) and how different strategies may increase adherence to the programs,” Afshin said.



CMS Hospital Compare Website Updated with VA Data

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced the inclusion of Veterans Administration (VA) hospital performance data as part of the federal agency’s Hospital Compare website.

CMS Awards Funding to Special Innovation Projects

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has awarded 20, two-year Special Innovation Projects (SIPs) aimed at local efforts to deliver better care at lower cost.

Center of Excellence in Genomic Science to be Established in Chicago

The National Human Genome Research Institute has awarded $10.6 million over five years for the establishment of a new research center in Chicago to advance genomic science.

EHNAC and HITRUST Combine HIPAA Security Criteria, CSF Framework

The Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC) and the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) announced plans to streamline their accreditation and certification programs.

Halamka on MACRA Final Rule: “CMS is Listening and I Thank Them”

Health IT notable expert John Halamka, M.D., CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, recently weighed in on the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) final rule.

Texas Patient Care Clinic Hit with Ransomware Attack

Grand Prairie, Texas-based Rainbow Children's Clinic was the victim of a ransomware attack on its IT systems in August, affecting more than 33,000 patients, according to multiple news media reports this week.