Can mHealth Technology Help Mitigate the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Can mHealth Technology Help Mitigate the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Table of Contents


Goal: The aim of the study herein reported was to review mobile health (mHealth) technologies and explore their use to monitor and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: A Task Force was assembled by recruiting individuals with expertise in electronic Patient-Reported Outcomes (ePRO), wearable sensors, and digital contact tracing technologies. Its members collected and discussed available information and summarized it in a series of reports. Results: The Task Force identified technologies that could be deployed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and would likely be suitable for future pandemics. Criteria for their evaluation were agreed upon and applied to these systems. Conclusions: mHealth technologies are viable options to monitor COVID-19 patients and be used to predict symptom escalation for earlier intervention. These technologies could also be utilized to monitor individuals who are presumed non-infected and enable prediction of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, thus facilitating the prioritization of diagnostic testing.

  • Author Keywords

    • mHealth technology could be utilized to predict exacerbations in COVID-19 patients experiencing mild symptoms and prioritize diagnostic testing in subjects who might have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus
  • IEEE Keywords

    • Biomedical monitoring,
    • Monitoring,
    • Wearable sensors,
    • Task analysis,
    • Force,
    • Testing,
    • Diseases


IN the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the potential role of mobile wireless technology for public health, commonly referred to as mHealth [1], has gained the attention of the public at large. mHealth technology could be used to monitor patients with mild symptoms who have tested positive for COVID-19. These patients are typically instructed to self-quarantine at home [2] or undergo monitoring at community treatment centers [3]. However, a portion of them eventually experience an exacerbation, namely the sudden occurrence of severe symptoms, and require hospitalization. In a recentreport from South Korea, approximately 2% of those initially experiencing mild symptoms, and hence treated in community centers, were eventually admitted to a hospital as they developed more severe symptoms [3]. In this context, mHealth technology could enable early detection of such exacerbations, allowing clinicians to deliver necessary interventions in a timely manner thusimprovingclinical outcomes [4]. Smartphone applications enabling self-reports [5], [6] and wearable sensors enabling physiological data collection [7] could be used to monitor clinical personnel and detect early signs of an outbreak in the hospital/healthcare settings [8].Similarly, in the community, early detection of COVID-19 cases could be achieved by building upon prior studies which showed that by using wearable sensors to capture resting heart rate and sleep duration it is possible to predict influenza-like illness rates [9] as well as COVID-19 epidemic trends [10]. Furthermore, cellular phone network functionalities could provide the means to identify hotspots (e.g. crowded areas in skilled nursing facilities and food processing plants [11]). Smartphone applications for digital contact tracing could be used to monitor the population in regions at risk for an outbreak and identify as well as isolate COVID-19 cases and those who may have been exposed [12]. Finally, mHealth technology could be used to monitor COVID-19 survivors, establish phenotypes associated with the long-term sequalae of COVID-19, and deploy clinical interventions [13].

To discuss these and other potential applications of mHealth technology in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Task Force was established as part of the Mass General Brigham(MGB) Center for COVID Innovation [14]. The Task Force identified several use cases and generated a series of reports on related topics. These reports are available as Sections of the Supplementary Materials of this manuscript. Specifically, Section 1 provides an overview of the clinical presentation and needs related to COVID-19. Section 2 examines the use of mHealth and other technologies in field hospitals set up to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Section 3 discusses the use of electronic Patient-Reported Outcomes (ePRO) to screen and monitor COVID-19 cases. Section 4 provides an overview of sensing technologies to monitor patients and frontline workers. Section 5 highlights new technologies, most of which still requires substantial development efforts, that carry great potential to help address the current and future potential pandemics. Sections 6 and 7 discuss contact tracing technologies and their application in the hospital and the community settings. Section 8 reviews the role of data integration platforms. Finally, Section 9 provides a summary of the Task Force’s findings. It is worth noting that mHealth technology could help health officials address also the broader public health impact of the pandemic (given social distancing, shelter in place, work from home, etc.)on activity, nutrition, sleep, and stress management, as well as on chronic disease management when access to traditional care is limited. The impact of these factorson the population at large should not be underestimated. mHealth solutions could help people to improve activity, nutrition, sleep, and stress management as well as chronic disease management (included mental health conditions) during these challenging times in novel ways. However, the work done by the Task Force was intentionally primarily focused on the potential use of mHealth technology to mitigate transmission of SARS-CoV-2 as well as morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19 itself.


mHealth technology can play an important role in monitoring individuals who could be COVID-19 positive and are instructed to self-quarantine at home, as they experience mild symptoms. During their quarantine, some of these ndividuals experience an exacerbation of symptoms and require hospitalization. mHealth technology could enable early detection of exacerbations and the deployment of clinical interventions before further complications arise. When combined with diagnostic and immune status testing, mHealth technology could be a valuable tool to help mitigate, if not prevent, the next surge of COVID-19 cases. Specifically, mHealth technology could provide the means to estimate the probability of infection and prioritize diagnostic testing in individuals whose data suggest a moderate to the high probability of infection. Three mHealth technologies suitable to achieve this goal were discussed in this manuscript and the Supplementary Materials section: 1) ePRO systems, 2) wearable sensors, and 3) digital contact tracing technologies. We believe that combining these technologies into an integrated, holistic mHealth solution would provide the opportunity to deploy an end-to-end solution incorporating tools for screening, risk profiling, achieving early detection, generating referrals for testing, tracking infections, tracking isolation management/quarantine, assuring social distance compliance, proving remote care, and tracking recovery.As we witness a digital transformation of the healthcare system, mHealth technologies are expected to become better integrated in the clinical workflow. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this transformation of the healthcare system has been dramatically accelerated by new clinical demands [50] including the need to assure continuity of clinical care services. This trend is likely to make us better prepared to address the challenges of future surges of COVID-19 cases and to minimize the effects of future pandemics on routineclinical service [51], [52].


The authors would like to thank David Benaron, Wen Dong, Rickey Hampton, Ali Hashemi, Joe Kvedar, Adam Landman, Joe Mather, Carolyn McGregor, Shawn Murphy, Alex Pentland, Hosain Rahman, Cyrus Tanade, Li Tong, Hang Wu,and Yuanda Zhu for their contributions to discussions with members of the Task Force.

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Can mHealth Technology Help Mitigate the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic?



C. Adans-Dester et al.,




Can mHealth Technology Help Mitigate the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic?,

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in IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology,



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Somayeh Nosrati was born in 1982 in Tehran. She holds a Master's degree in artificial intelligence from Khatam University of Tehran.

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Professor Siavosh Kaviani was born in 1961 in Tehran. He had a professorship. He holds a Ph.D. in Software Engineering from the QL University of Software Development Methodology and an honorary Ph.D. from the University of Chelsea.

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Nasim Gazerani was born in 1983 in Arak. She holds a Master's degree in Software Engineering from UM University of Malaysia.