Gillings Student Publishes Guidelines to Improve Reporting on Mobile Health Interventions

April 7, 2016

Smisha Agarwal Kaysin

A new paper led by a student researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health proposes guidelines to improve the quality of reported research on mobile health (mHealth).

Smisha Agarwal Kaysin, doctoral student of maternal and child health at the Gillings School, is the lead author of a recently published article titled, “Guidelines for reporting of health interventions using mobile phones: mobile health (mHealth) evidence reporting and assessment (mERA) checklist.” The paper was published online March 17 by The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).

The article is the result of years of work led by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mHealth Technical Evidence Review Group. It presents standard criteria for reporting evidence on the effectiveness of interventions that use mobile phones. On March 22, WHO endorsed the checklist of standards proposed by Kaysin and her co-authors.

“Over the past decade, the global mobile phone revolution has inspired thousands of global health innovation projects,” reads a statement from the WHO website. “A major obstacle to widespread adoption of these mHealth innovations at scale has been the absence of guidelines from normative bodies. This lack stems from the want of quality reporting to provide an evidence-base on mHealth work that is being done around the world.”

Kaysin’s research addresses that lack by proposing standard criteria for reporting research findings on mHealth interventions. In particular, the mERA checklist provides criteria specific to reporting on digital innovations and supports high-quality methodological reporting of this relatively new field in public health.

“This work marks the culmination of three years of multi-institutional collaborations led by the WHO mHealth Technical Evidence Review Group to determine standards for reporting digital health evidence,” Kaysin explains. “We hope that the systematic use of this checklist to report research findings will help improve the quality of digital health evidence and, in turn, support policy leaders in making more informed decisions. Often, others cannot replicate interventions that have a proven efficacy because it is unclear exactly what the intervention is. This mERA checklist can guide authors to comprehensively report the most critical aspects of their digital health interventions.”

mERA also represents a way to more easily compare results across different mHealth research studies, which will allow researchers to refine future interventions and compare findings from settings around the globe.