Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 981–994 | Cite as

What do we know about mobile applications for diabetes self-management? A review of reviews

  • Megan HoodEmail author
  • Rebecca Wilson
  • Joyce Corsica
  • Lauren Bradley
  • Diana Chirinos
  • Amanda Vivo


Diabetes is a chronic illness with significant health consequences, especially for those who are unable to adhere to the complex treatment regimen. Self-management tasks such as regular medication and insulin use, frequent blood sugar checks, strict diet management, and consistent exercise can be quite challenging. Mobile technologies, specifically mobile applications (apps), present a unique opportunity to help patients improve adherence to these behaviors. The availability of commercial diabetes self-management apps is increasing rapidly, making it difficult for patients and providers to stay informed about app options. A number of reviews have described commercial app technology and use for patients with diabetes. The aims of this article are to summarize the results and themes of those reviews, to review outcomes of apps described in the research literature, and to identify areas for further consideration in the use of mobile apps for diabetes self-management.


Diabetes Self-management Behavior adherence Mobile applications Review mHealth 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Megan Hood, Rebecca Wilson, Joyce Corsica, Lauren Bradley, Diana Chirinos, Amanda Vivo declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.


  1. Arnhold, M., Quade, M., & Kirch, W. (2014). Mobile applications for diabetics: A systematic review and expert-based usability evaluation considering the special requirements of diabetes patients age 50 years or older. Journal of Medical Internet Research,. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2968 PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Årsand, E., Frøisland, D. H., Skrøvseth, S. O., Chomutare, T., Tatara, N., Hartvigsen, G., et al. (2012). Mobile health applications to assist patients with diabetes: Lessons learned and design implications. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 6, 1197–1206. doi: 10.1177/193229681200600525 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Årsand, E., Tatara, N., Østengen, G., & Hartvigsen, G. (2010). Mobile phone-based self-management tools for type 2 diabetes: The few touch application. Journal of Diabetes, 4, 328–336.Google Scholar
  4. Asche, C., LaFleur, J., & Conner, C. (2011). A review of diabetes treatment adherence and the association with clinical and economic outcomes. Clinical Therapeutics, 33, 74–109. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2011.01.019 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Azar, K. M., Lesser, L. I., Laing, B. Y., Stephens, J., Aurora, M. S., Burke, L. E., et al. (2013). Mobile applications for weight management: Theory-based content analysis. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 45, 583–589.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bailey, C. J., & Kodack, M. (2011). Patient adherence to medication requirements for therapy of type 2 diabetes. The International Journal of Clinical Practice, 65, 314–322. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2010.02544.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Breland, J. Y., Yeh, V. M., & Yu, J. (2013). Adherence to evidence-based guidelines among diabetes self-management apps. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 3, 277–286. doi: 10.1007/s13142-013-0205-4 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Caburnay, C. A., Graff, K., Harris, J. K., McQueen, A., Smith, M., Fairchild, M., et al. (2015). Evaluating diabetes mobile applications for health literate designs and functionality, 2014. Preventing Chronic Disease, 12, 1–13. doi: 10.5888/pcd12.140433 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cafazzo, J. A., Casselman, M., Hamming, N., Katzman, D. K., & Palmert, M. R. (2012). Design of an mHealth app for the self-management of adolescent type 1 diabetes: A pilot study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 14, e70. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2058 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Center for Disease Control (2014) National diabetes statistics report, 2014. Retrieved from
  11. Chen, J., Cade, J. E., & Allman-Farinelli, M. (2015). The most popular smartphone apps for weight loss: A quality assessment. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth, 3, e104. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.4334 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Chomutare, T., Fernandez-Luque, L., Årsand, E., & Hartvigsen, G. (2011). Features of mobile diabetes applications: Review of the literature and analysis of current applications compared against evidence-based guidelines. Journal of Medical Internet Research,. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1874 PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  13. Cochrane Collaboration (2014, April 28). Social media resources. Retrieved February 2, 2016, from
  14. Cramer, J. A. (2004). A systematic review of adherence with medications for diabetes. Diabetes Care, 27, 1218–1224. doi: 10.2337/diacare.27.5.1218 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Demidowich, A. P., Lu, K., Tamler, R., & Bloomgarden, Z. (2012). An evaluation of diabetes self-management applications for Android smartphones. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 18, 235–238. doi: 10.1258/jtt.2012.111002 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. El-Gayar, O., Timsina, P., Nawar, N., & Eid, W. (2013). Mobile applications for diabetes self-management: Status and potential. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 7, 247–262. doi: 10.1177/193229681300700130 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. Eng, D. S., & Lee, J. M. (2013). Mobile health applications for diabetes and endocrinology: Promise and peril? Pediatric Diabetes,. doi: 10.1111/pedi.12034 PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. FDA (2015). What is the difference between FDA-listed, 510(k) exempt, cleared and approved medical devices? Retrieved 11 Jan 2015.
  19. Forjuoh, S. N., Reis, M. D., Couchman, G. R., & Ory, M. G. (2008). Improving diabetes self-care with a PDA in ambulatory care. Telemedicine and E-Health, 14, 273–279. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2007.0053 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Gibson, O. J., Tarassenko, L., McSharry, P. E., Hayton, P. M., Farmer, A. J., & Neil, H. A. W. (2007). Clinical evaluation of a mobile phone telemedicine system for the self-management of type 1 diabetes. Proceedings of PGBiomed, Reading, UK, 2005, 3–4.Google Scholar
  21. Giménez-Pérez, G., Recasens, A., Simó, O., Aguas, T., Suárez, A., Vila, M., et al. (2016). Use of communication technologies by people with type 1 diabetes in the social networking era. A chance for improvement. Primary Care Diabetes, 10, 121–128.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. GO-Gulf (2012, January 2). Smartphone users around the world—Statistics and facts infographic, [Web log post]. Retrieved from
  23. Holmen, H., Torbjørnsen, A., Wahl, A. K., Jenum, A. K., Småstuen, M. C., Årsand, E., et al. (2014). A mobile health intervention for self-management and lifestyle change for persons with type 2 diabetes, part 2: One-year results from the Norwegian randomized controlled trial RENEWING HEALTH. Journal of Medical Internet Research mHealth and uHealth,. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.3882 Google Scholar
  24. Huckvale, K., Adomaviciute, S., Prieto, J. T., Leow, M. K.-S., & Car, J. (2015). Smartphone apps for calculating insulin dose: A systematic assessment. BMC Medicine, 13, 106. doi: 10.1186/s12916-015-0314-7 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. Kim, H.-S., et al. (2014). Efficacy of the smartphone-based glucose management application stratified by user satisfaction. Diabetes and Metabolism Journal, 38(3), 204–210.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Klonoff, D. C. (2013). The current status of mHealth for diabetes: Will it be the next big thing? Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 7, 749–758. doi: 10.1177/193229681300700321 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. Knapp, S., Manroa, P., & Doshi, K. (2016). Self-monitoring of blood glucose: Advice for providers and patients. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 83, 355–360. doi: 10.3949/ccjm.83a.14147 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Kollmann, A., Riedl, M., Kastner, P., Schreier, G., & Ludvik, B. (2007). Feasibility of a mobile phone–based data service for functional insulin treatment of type 1 diabetes mellitus patients. Journal of Medical Internet Research,. doi: 10.2196/jmir.9.5.e36 PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  29. Kumar, V. S., Wentzell, K. J., Mikkelsen, T., Pentland, A., & Laffel, L. M. (2004). The DAILY (Daily Automated Intensive Log for Youth) Trial: A wireless, portable system to improve adherence and glycemic control in youth with diabetes. Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics, 6, 445–453. doi: 10.1089/1520915041705893 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Laranjo, L., Arguel, A., Neves, A. L., Gallagher, A. M., Kaplan, R., Mortimer, N., et al. (2014). The influence of social networking sites on health behavior change: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 22, 243–256. doi: 10.1136/amiajnl-2014-002841 PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  31. Lee, J. (2014). Hype or hope for diabetes mobile health applications? Diabetes Voice, 59, 43–46. Retrieved from
  32. Martínez-Pérez, B., la de Torre-Díez, I., & López-Coronado, M. (2013). Mobile health applications for the most prevalent conditions by the World Health Organization: Review and analysis. Journal of Medical Internet Research,. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2600 PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  33. Miltenberger, R. G. (2015). Behavior modification: Principles and procedures (6th ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
  34. Morrissey, E. C., Corbett, T. K., Walsh, J. C., & Molloy, G. J. (2016). Behavior change techniques in apps for medication adherence: A content analysis. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 50, e143–e146. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2015.09.034 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Nahum-Shani, S., Smith, S. N., Tewari, A., Witkiewitz, K., Collins, L. M., Spring, B., & Murphy, S. A. (2014). Just-in-time adaptive interventions (JITAIs): An organizing framework for ongoing health behavior support. Technical Report No. 14-126. University Park, PA: The Methodology Center, Penn State.Google Scholar
  36. Padman, R., Jaladi, S., Kim, S., Kumar, S., Orbeta, P., Rudolph, K., & Tran, T. (2013). An evaluation framework and a pilot study of a mobile platform for diabetes self-management: insights from pediatric users. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, 192, 333–337. Retrieved from
  37. Payne, H. E., Moxley, V. B., & MacDonald, E. (2015). Health behavior theory in physical activity game apps: A content analysis. JMIR Serious Games, 3, e4. doi: 10.2196/games.4187 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  38. Quinn, C. C., Clough, S. S., Minor, J. M., Lender, D., Okafor, M. C., & Gruber-Baldini, A. (2008). WellDoc™ mobile diabetes management randomized controlled trial: Change in clinical and behavioral outcomes and patient and physician satisfaction. Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics, 10, 160–168. doi: 10.1089/dia.2008.0283 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Rao, A., Hou, P., Golnik, T., Flaherty, J., & Vu, S. (2010). Evolution of data management tools for managing self-monitoring of blood glucose results: A survey of iPhone applications. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 4, 949–957.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  40. Rho, M. J., Kim, H. S., Chung, K., & Choi, I. Y. (2014). Factors influencing the acceptance of telemedicine for diabetes management. Cluster Computing, 18, 321–331. doi: 10.1007/s10586-014-0356-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rossi, M. C. E., Nicolucci, A., Bartolo, P. D., Bruttomesso, D., Girelli, A., Ampudia, F. J., et al. (2010). Diabetes interactive diary: A new telemedicine system enabling flexible diet and insulin therapy while improving quality of life an open-label, international, multicenter, randomized study. Diabetes Care, 33, 109–115. doi: 10.2337/dc09-1327 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Rossi, M. C. E., Nicolucci, A., Pellegrini, F., Bruttomesso, D., Bartolo, P. D., Marelli, G., et al. (2009). Interactive diary for diabetes: A useful and easy-to-use new telemedicine system to support the decision-making process in type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, 11, 19–24. doi: 10.1089/dia.2008.0020 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sieverdes, J. C., Treiber, F., & Jenkins, C. (2013). Improving diabetes management with mobile health technology. The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 345, 289–295. doi: 10.1097/MAJ.0b013e3182896cee CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. SmartBear Software (2015) What is mobile testing? Retrieved January 15, 2015 from
  45. Tamony, P., Holt, R., & Barnard, K. (2015). The role of mobile applications in improving alcohol health literacy in young adults with type 1 diabetes: Help or hindrance? Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 9, 1313–1320. doi: 10.1177/1932296815588559 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  46. Torbjørnsen, A., Jenum, A. K., Småstuen, M. C., Årsand, E., Holmen, H., Wahl, A. K., et al. (2014). A low-intensity mobile health intervention with and without health counseling for persons with type 2 diabetes, part 1: Baseline and short-term results from a randomized controlled trial in the Norwegian part of RENEWING HEALTH. Journal of Medical Internet Research mHealth and uHealth, 2, e52. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.3535 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Vaala, S. E., Hood, K. K., Laffel, L., Kumah-Crystal, Y. A., Lybarger, C. K., & Mulvaney, S. A. (2015). Use of commonly available technologies for diabetes information and self-management among adolescents with type 1 diabetes and their parents: A web-based survey study. Interactive Journal of Medical Research, 4, e24.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  48. Waki, K., Fujita, H., Uchimura, Y., Omae, K., Aramaki, E., Kato, S., et al. (2014). DialBetics: A novel smartphone-based self-management support system for type 2 diabetes patients. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 8, 209–215. doi: 10.1177/1932296814526495 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  49. Williams, J. P., & Schroeder, D. (2015). Popular glucose tracking apps and use of mHealth by Latinos with diabetes: Review. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 3, e84. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.3986 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  50. Winter, S. J., Sheats, J. L., & King, A. C. (2016). The use of behavior change techniques and theory in technologies for cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment in adults: A comprehensive review. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 58, 605–612. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2016.02.005 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. World Health Organization (2011). mHealth: New horizons for health through mobile technologies: Based on the findings of the second global survey on eHealth. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Behavioral SciencesRush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations