Text-mining analysis of mHealth research
In recent years, because of the advancements in communication and networking technologies, mobile technologies have been developing at an unprecedented rate. mHealth, the use of mobile technologies in medicine, and the related research has also surged parallel to these technological advancements. Although there have been several attempts to review mHealth research through manual processes such as systematic reviews, the sheer magnitude of the number of studies published in recent years makes this task very challenging. The most recent developments in machine learning and text mining offer some potential solutions to address this challenge by allowing analyses of large volumes of texts through semi-automated processes. The objective of this study is to analyze the evolution of mHealth research by utilizing text-mining and natural language processing (NLP) analyses. The study sample included abstracts of 5,644 mHealth research articles, which were gathered from five academic search engines by using search terms such as mobile health, and mHealth. The analysis used the Text Explorer module of JMP Pro 13 and an iterative semi-automated process involving tokenizing, phrasing, and terming. After developing the document term matrix (DTM) analyses such as single value decomposition (SVD), topic, and hierarchical document clustering were performed, along with the topic-informed document clustering approach. The results were presented in the form of word-clouds and trend analyses. There were several major findings regarding research clusters and trends. First, our results confirmed time-dependent nature of terminology use in mHealth research. For example, in earlier versus recent years the use of terminology changed from “mobile phone” to “smartphone” and from “applications” to “apps”. Second, ten clusters for mHealth research were identified including (I) Clinical Research on Lifestyle Management, (II) Community Health, (III) Literature Review, (IV) Medical Interventions, (V) Research Design, (VI) Infrastructure, (VII) Applications, (VIII) Research and Innovation in Health Technologies, (IX) Sensor-based Devices and Measurement Algorithms, (X) Survey-based Research. Third, the trend analyses indicated the infrastructure cluster as the highest percentage researched area until 2014. The Research and Innovation in Health Technologies cluster experienced the largest increase in numbers of publications in recent years, especially after 2014. This study is unique because it is the only known study utilizing text-mining analyses to reveal the streams and trends for mHealth research. The fast growth in mobile technologies is expected to lead to higher numbers of studies focusing on mHealth and its implications for various healthcare outcomes. Findings of this study can be utilized by researchers in identifying areas for future studies.