Outcome Measures Used in the Smartphone Applications for the Management of Low Back Pain: A Systematic Scoping Review

Rachel Coe-O’Brien, Leonard Henry Joseph, Raija Kuisma, Aatit Paungmali, Patraporn Sitilertpisan, Ubon Pirunsan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Smartphone applications (SPApps) have become a key tool for the self-management of low back pain (LBP). However, the scientific evidence behind the outcome measures used in SPApps for LBP is never investigated before. Therefore, this systematic review firstly assess the quality of the free SPApps for LBP, secondly examines the outcome measures used and thirdly evaluates the outcome measures against the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) core set classifications for LBP.
A systematic scoping review was conducted in the iTunes and Google Play™ on-line stores for LBP SPApps which are free to download. These searches were conducted using keywords suggested by the Cochrane Back and Neck Group. SPApps were screened and downloaded to assess the quality using the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS). SPApps using outcome measures were reviewed separately to evaluate whether their outcome measures represented any of the ICF components for LBP.
The overall quality of the apps has a mean MARS score of 2.5/5. Out of 74 apps reviewed, only four apps had outcome measures that could be linked to ICF components for LBP. Two of the four categories comprising the LBP core set were well represented.
The overall quality of the SPApps for LBP is low. Only very few SPApps offer outcome measures to monitor their effectiveness in the management of LBP. There is very limited evidence to show that the outcome measures used in the apps represents all the four core sets of LBP criteria set by ICF.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Information Science and Systems
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

This is one of the first outcomes from the Rising Star Project, an award given by the University of Brighton. The project was held in collaboration with the Chiang Mai University, Thailand.

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Health Information Science and Systems. The final authenticated version is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13755-019-0097-x


  • Low back pain
  • Mobile health
  • Outcome measurement
  • care quality
  • Patient choice


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