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Int J Med Inform. 2017 May;101:28-40. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2017.01.017. Epub 2017 Feb 6.

Scoping review and evaluation of SMS/text messaging platforms for mHealth projects or clinical interventions.

Author information

1
University of Washington, Department of Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Informatics, Seattle, WA, United States; Columbia University, School of Nursing, New York, NY, United States. Electronic address: sjiribar@uw.edu.
2
University of California San Francisco, Department of Medicine, Division of Prevention Science, Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, San Francisco, CA, United States; Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations, Health Communications Research Program, San Francisco, CA, United States; New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health, HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York, NY, United States.
3
New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health, HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York, NY, United States.
4
Columbia University, School of Nursing, New York, NY, United States.
5
University of Utah, Department of Biomedical Informatics and College of Nursing, Salt Lake City, UT, United States.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Mobile technology supporting text messaging interventions (TMIs) continues to evolve, presenting challenges for researchers and healthcare professionals who need to choose software solutions to best meet their program needs. The objective of this review was to systematically identify and compare text messaging platforms and to summarize their advantages and disadvantages as described in peer-reviewed literature.

METHODS:

A scoping review was conducted using four steps: 1) identify currently available platforms through online searches and in mHealth repositories; 2) expand evaluation criteria of an mHealth mobile messaging toolkit and integrate prior user experiences as researchers; 3) evaluate each platform's functions and features based on the expanded criteria and a vendor survey; and 4) assess the documentation of platform use in the peer-review literature. Platforms meeting inclusion criteria were assessed independently by three reviewers and discussed until consensus was reached. The PRISMA guidelines were followed to report findings.

RESULTS:

Of the 1041 potentially relevant search results, 27 platforms met inclusion criteria. Most were excluded because they were not platforms (e.g., guides, toolkits, reports, or SMS gateways). Of the 27 platforms, only 12 were identified in existing mHealth repositories, 10 from Google searches, while five were found in both. The expanded evaluation criteria included 22 items. Results indicate no uniform presentation of platform features and functions, often making these difficult to discern. Fourteen of the platforms were reported as open source, 10 focused on health care and 16 were tailored to meet needs of low resource settings (not mutually exclusive). Fifteen platforms had do-it-yourself setup (programming not required) while the remainder required coding/programming skills or setups could be built to specification by the vendor. Frequently described features included data security and access to the platform via cloud-based systems. Pay structures and reported targeted end-users varied. Peer-reviewed publications listed only 6 of the 27 platforms across 21 publications. The majority of these articles reported the name of the platform used but did not describe advantages or disadvantages.

CONCLUSIONS:

Searching for and comparing mHealth platforms for TMIs remains a challenge. The results of this review can serve as a resource for researchers and healthcare professionals wanting to integrate TMIs into health interventions. Steps to identify, compare and assess advantages and disadvantages are outlined for consideration. Expanded evaluation criteria can be used by future researchers. Continued and more comprehensive platform tools should be integrated into mHealth repositories. Detailed descriptions of platform advantages and disadvantages are needed when mHealth researchers publish findings to expand the body of research on TMI tools for healthcare. Standardized descriptions and features are recommended for vendor sites.

KEYWORDS:

Mobile health; Review; SMS; Short message service; Text messaging; mHealth

PMID:
28347445
PMCID:
PMC5398898
[Available on 2018-05-01]
DOI:
10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2017.01.017
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