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PLoS One. 2014 Jul 7;9(7):e101312. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101312. eCollection 2014.

mHealth: a strategic field without a solid scientific soul. a systematic review of pain-related apps.

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Unit for the Study and Treatment of Pain - ALGOS, Research Center for Behavior Assessment, Department of Psychology and Institut d'Investigació Sanitària Pere Virgili, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain.



Mobile health (mHealth) has undergone exponential growth in recent years. Patients and healthcare professionals are increasingly using health-related applications, at the same time as concerns about ethical issues, bias, conflicts of interest and privacy are emerging. The general aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the current state of development of mHealth.


To exemplify the issues, we made a systematic review of the pain-related apps available in scientific databases (Medline, Web of Science, Gale, Psycinfo, etc.) and the main application shops (App Store, Blackberry App World, Google Play, Nokia Store and Windows Phone Store). Only applications (designed for both patients and clinicians) focused on pain education, assessment and treatment were included. Of the 47 papers published on 34 apps in scientific databases, none were available in the app shops. A total of 283 pain-related apps were found in the five shops searched, but no articles have been published on these apps. The main limitation of this review is that we did not look at all stores in all countries.


There is a huge gap between the scientific and commercial faces of mHealth. Specific efforts are needed to facilitate knowledge translation and regulate commercial health-related apps.

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