mHealth Apps Focused in Endometriosis and Chronic Pelvic Pain

Mobile health (mHealth): defined as the delivery of health care and health-related services via communications devices.

As a healthcare provider, I believe that smartphone and tablet technologies in the health care context can improve my patient’s quality of life. By nature of their design, consumers who download these apps are choosing to be more engaged with their own health. This is particularly important for individuals with endometriosis, an enigmatic disease with a wide range of symptoms. Due to the severity and impact of symptoms on quality of life, people with endometriosis experience strong negative emotions. On top of that, their symptoms have historically been stigmatized and ignored by medical and research communities.

People with endometriosis feel unheard. Their pain is real, yet they feel alone and isolated when it comes to understanding and managing their condition. This is likely a strong incentive for the use of mHealth apps, especially self-tracking apps. Self-tracking apps can help users make sense of endometriosis, in the context of their needs and goals. Similar to the medical body, individuals with endometriosis often have a limited understanding of their own condition.

People with endometriosis are faced with a complex set of decisions and environmental triggers to navigate. Self-tracking of one’s health and disease patterns to produce personally meaningful data, provides an exciting new way to engage people in disease self-management and self-discovery.

However, I must acknowledge that there are risks involved, since the credibility of these apps is likely unknown to most users. Consumers often choose to download based on apps’ reviews or the information that developers provide.

This can be risky for women using these apps, since sometimes this can be their only approach and understanding of the disease.

According to one study, twelve out of 26 (46%) mHealth apps specifically relating to endometriosis and chronic pelvic pain, had documented evidence base (EB) practice. Eleven (42%) had Medical Professional Involvement (MPI) in their development.

Nine apps (34.6%) are clinical guidelines providing information about the diagnosis, the clinical management and the treatment. However, not all of them had documented EB practice or MPI in their development.

A lack of EB or MPI in the development of such apps may result in the wrong approach of endometriosis, its symptoms and its management. The majority of apps reviewed in this study (61.5%) are focused on the symptoms and how to avoid them or improve everyday quality of life.

The majority of apps reviewed in this study (61.5%) are focused on the symptoms and how to avoid them or improve everyday quality of life. By learning about trends in your health, you are in a better position to manage your symptoms, your life, and improve communication with your healthcare provider.

Take home point: If you are using an app targeted at endometriosis, then it is important to understand why you are using it. What’s your intention behind its use?

Functionalities range from: educational reference tools and glossaries to more complex functions such as self assessment, appointment management and reminders, and social networking tools.

Once you have that clarity, this review may help you choose the right app for your needs and goals. 

References:

Gkrozou F, Waters N. (2019) A Preliminary Review of the mHealth Apps Focused in Endometriosis and Chronic Pelvic Pain. Health Sci J Vol. 13.No.3:656.

McKillop M, Voigt N, Schnall R, Elhadad N. Exploring self-tracking as a participatory research activity among women with endometriosis. J Participat Med. 2016 Dec 29; 8:e17.