Problems and Barriers Related to the Use of Digital Health Applications : Protocol for a Scoping Review

Background: The use of mobile health (mHealth) apps is increasing rapidly worldwide. More and more institutions and organizations develop regulations and guidelines to enable an evidence-based and safe use. In Germany, mHealth apps fulfilling predefined criteria (Digitale Gesundheitsanwendungen [DiGA]) can be prescribed and are reimbursable by the German statutory health insurance scheme. Due to the increasing distribution of DiGA, problems and barriers should receive special attention.

Objective: This study aims to identify the relevant problems and barriers related to the use of mHealth apps fulfilling the criteria of DiGA.

Methods: This scoping review will follow published methodological frameworks and the PRISMA-Scr (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses Extension for Scoping Reviews) criteria. Electronic databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and JMIR), reference lists of relevant articles, and grey literature sources will be searched. Two reviewers will assess the eligibility of the articles by a two-stage (title and abstract as well as full text) screening process. Only problems and barriers related to mHealth apps fulfilling the criteria of DiGA are included for this research. The identified studies will be categorized and analyzed with MAXQDA.

Results: This scoping review gives an overview of the available evidence and identifies research gaps regarding problems and barriers related to DiGA. The results are planned to be submitted to an indexed, peer-reviewed journal in the first quarter of 2022.

Conclusions: This is the first review to identify the problems and barriers related to the use of mHealth apps fulfilling the German definition of DiGA. Nevertheless, the findings can be applied to other contexts and health care systems as well.


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