Background: Substance use and use disorders in the United States have had significant and devastating impacts on individuals and communities. This escalating substance use crisis calls for urgent and innovative solutions to effectively detect and provide interventions for individuals in times of need. Recent mobile health (mHealth)-based approaches offer promising new opportunities to address these issues through ubiquitous devices. However, the design rationales, theoretical frameworks, and mechanisms through which users' perspectives and experiences guide the design and deployment of such systems have not been analyzed in any prior systematic reviews. Objective: In this paper, we systematically review these approaches and apps for their feasibility, efficacy, and usability. Further, we evaluate whether human-centered research principles and techniques guide the design and development of these systems and examine how the current state-of-the-art systems apply to real-world contexts. In an effort to gauge the applicability of these systems, we also investigate whether these approaches consider the effects of stigma and privacy concerns related to collecting data on substance use. Lastly, we examine persistent challenges in the design and large-scale adoption of substance use intervention apps and draw inspiration from other domains of mHealth to suggest actionable reforms for the design and deployment of these apps. Methods: Four databases (PubMed, IEEE Xplore, JMIR, and ACM Digital Library) were searched over a 5-year period (2016-2021) for articles evaluating mHealth approaches for substance use (alcohol use, marijuana use, opioid use, tobacco use, and substance co-use). Articles that will be included describe an mHealth detection or intervention targeting substance use, provide outcomes data, and include a discussion of design techniques and user perspectives. Independent evaluation will be conducted by one author, followed by secondary reviewer(s) who will check and validate themes and data. Results: This is a protocol for a systematic review; therefore, results are not yet available. We are currently in the process of selecting the studies for inclusion in the final analysis. 7 Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first systematic review to assess real-world applicability, scalability, and use of human-centered design and evaluation techniques in mHealth approaches targeting substance use. This study is expected to identify gaps and opportunities in current approaches used to develop and assess mHealth technologies for substance use detection and intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere35749
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding Design Approaches and Evaluation Methods in mHealth Apps Targeting Substance Use: Protocol for a Systematic Review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this