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The use of digital technology in healthcare has been found to be useful for data collection, provision of health information and communications. Despite increasing use of medical mobile phone applications (apps), by both clinicians and patients, there appears to be a paucity of peer-reviewed publications evaluating their use, particularly in pregnancy. This scoping review explored the use of mobile phone apps for clinical decision support in pregnancy. Specific objectives were to: 1. determine the current landscape of mobile phone app use for clinical decision support in pregnancy; 2. identify perceived benefits and potential hazards of use and 3. identify facilitators and barriers to implementation of these apps into clinical practice.
Papers eligible for inclusion were primary research or reports on the development and evaluation of apps for use by clinicians for decision support in pregnancy, published in peer-reviewed journals. Research databases included Medline, Embase, PsychoInfo, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and the online digital health journals JMIR mHealth and uHealth. Charting and thematic analysis was undertaken using NVivo qualitative data management software and the Framework approach.
After screening for eligibility, 13 papers were identified, mainly reporting early stage development of the mobile app, and feasibility or acceptability studies designed to inform further development. Thematic analysis revealed four main themes across the included papers: 1. acceptability and satisfaction; 2. ease of use and portability; 3. multi-functionality and 4. the importance of user involvement in development and evaluation.
This review highlights the benefits of mobile apps for clinical decision support in pregnancy and potential barriers to implementation, but reveals a lack of rigorous reporting of evaluation of their use and data security. This situation may change, however, following the issue of FDA and MHRA guidelines and implementation of UK government and other international strategies. Overall, the findings suggest that ease of use, portability and multi-functionality make mobile apps for clinical decision support in pregnancy useful and acceptable tools for clinicians.