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Mobile Health Apps on COVID-19 Launched in the Early Days of the Pandemic: Content Analysis and Review

Long Chiau Ming, Noorazrina Untong, Nur Amalina Aliudin, Norliza Osili, Nurolaini Kifli, Ching Siang Tan, Khang Wen Goh, Pit Wei Ng, , Kah Seng LeeShow More
Published in JMIR
PMID: 32609622
Volume: 8
Issue: 9

Background:Mobile health (mHealth) app use is a major concern because of the possible dissemination of misinformation that could harm the users. Particularly, it can be difficult for health care professionals to recommend a suitable app for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) education and self-monitoring purposes.

Objective:This study aims to analyze and evaluate the contents as well as features of COVID-19 mobile apps. The findings are instrumental in helping health care professionals to identify suitable mobile apps for COVID-19 self-monitoring and education. The results of the mobile apps’ assessment could potentially help mobile app developers improve or modify their existing mobile app designs to achieve optimal outcomes.

Methods:The search for the mHealth apps available in the android-based Play Store and the iOS-based App Store was conducted between April 18 and May 5, 2020. The region of the App Store where we performed the search was the United States, and a virtual private network app was used to locate and access COVID-19 mobile apps from all countries on the Google Play Store. The inclusion criteria were apps that are related to COVID-19 with no restriction in language type. The basic features assessment criteria used for comparison were the requirement for free subscription, internet connection, education or advisory content, size of the app, ability to export data, and automated data entry. The functionality of the apps was assessed according to knowledge (information on COVID-19), tracing or mapping of COVID-19 cases, home monitoring surveillance, online consultation with a health authority, and official apps run by health authorities.

Results:Of the 223 COVID-19–related mobile apps, only 30 (19.9%) found in the App Store and 28 (44.4%) in the Play Store matched the inclusion criteria. In the basic features assessment, most App Store (10/30, 33.3%) and Play Store (10/28, 35.7%) apps scored 4 out of 7 points. Meanwhile, the outcome of the functionality assessment for most App Store apps (13/30, 43.3%) was a score of 3 compared to android-based apps (10/28, 35.7%), which scored 2 (out of the maximum 5 points). Evaluation of the basic functions showed that 75.0% (n=36) of the 48 included mobile apps do not require a subscription, 56.3% (n=27) provide symptom advice, and 41.7% (n=20) have educational content. In terms of the specific functions, more than half of the included mobile apps are official mobile apps maintained by a health authority for COVID-19 information provision. Around 37.5% (n=18) and 31.3% (n=15) of the mobile apps have tracing or mapping and home monitoring surveillance functions, respectively, with only 17% (n=8) of the mobile apps equipped with an online consultation function.

Conclusions:Most iOS-based apps incorporate infographic mapping of COVID-19 cases, while most android-based apps incorporate home monitoring surveillance features instead of providing focused educational content on COVID-19. It is important to evaluate the contents and features of COVID-19 mobile apps to guide users in choosing a suitable mobile app based on their requirements.

About the journal
JournalJMIR Mhealth Uhealth
Open AccessNo