Mobile Health Strategies to Tackle Skin Neglected Tropical Diseases With Recommendations From Innovative Experiences: Systematic Review.
BACKGROUND: Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) represent a diverse group of 20 communicable diseases that occur in tropical and subtropical areas in 149 countries, affecting over 1 billion people and costing developing economies billions of dollars every year. Within these diseases, those that present lesions on the skin surface are classified as skin NTDs (sNTDs). Mobile health interventions are currently being used worldwide to manage skin diseases and can be a good strategy in the epidemiological and clinical management of sNTDs.
OBJECTIVE: We aimed to analyze existing evidence about mobile health interventions to control and manage sNTDs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and make recommendations for what should be considered in future interventions.
METHODS: A systematic review was conducted of the MEDLINE, Embase, and Scopus databases over 10 years up to April 30, 2020. All types of clinical studies were considered. Data were synthesized into evidence tables. Apps were selected through a comprehensive systematic search in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store conducted between March 20 and April 15, 2020.
RESULTS: From 133 potentially relevant publications, 13 studies met our criteria (9.8%). These analyzed eight different interventions (three SMS text messaging interventions and five app interventions). Six of the 13 (46%) studies were community-based cross-sectional studies intended to epidemiologically map a specific disease, mainly lymphatic filariasis, but also cutaneous leishmaniasis, leprosy, and NTDs, as well as sNTDs in general. Most of the studies were considered to have a high (5/13, 39%) or moderate (4/13, 31%) risk of bias. Fifteen apps were identified in the Google Play Store, of which three were also in the Apple App Store. Most of the apps (11/15, 73%) were targeted at health care professionals, with only four targeted at patients. The apps focused on scabies (3/15, 20%), lymphatic filariasis (3/15, 20%), cutaneous leishmaniasis (1/15, 7%), leprosy (1/15, 7%), yaws and Buruli ulcer (1/15, 7%), tropical diseases including more than one sNTDs (3/15, 20%), and NTDs including sNTDs (2/15, 13%). Only 1 (7%) app focused on the clinical management of sNTDs.
CONCLUSIONS: All mobile health interventions that were identified face technological, legal, final user, and organizational issues. There was a remarkable heterogeneity among studies, and the majority had methodological limitations that leave considerable room for improvement. Based on existing evidence, eight recommendations have been made for future interventions.