Electronic tools to bridge the language gap in health care for people who have migrated: Systematic review

Frédérique Thonon*, Swati Perrot, Abhijna Vithal Yergolkar, Olivia Rousset-Torrente, James W. Griffith, Olivier Chassany, Martin Duracinsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: People who have migrated or with a language barrier may face significant hurdles in accessing health care. Some apps have been specifically developed to facilitate the dialogue between health care professionals and people who have migrated who have low-level language proficiency or to promote health among people who have migrated. Objective: We conducted a systematic review to investigate development, acceptability, and effectiveness of these types of apps. Methods: We conducted a search of PubMed, Scopus, and Embase databases. We included all study designs (qualitative, quantitative, mixed) reporting development, evaluation of efficacy, or acceptability of apps facilitating dialogue with a health professional or promoting health for people who have migrated, minorities, or tourists with a language barrier, using any outcome. Two researchers selected the studies independently. We collected general information about the app, information about health literacy and cultural adaptation, information about the development of the app, evidence on acceptability or efficacy, and information on app use. Data were collected by 2 researchers independently and results were reviewed to verify agreement and reported according to PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analysis). Results: Positive results for translation apps included better communication, but with possible limitations, and reduced consultation time. Positive results for health promotion apps included improved quality of life and better management of chronic illnesses. Conclusions: Overall, the apps had good levels of acceptability, though only half had their efficacy evaluated. In those evaluations, the endpoints were mostly related to reported behavior change and knowledge improvement, which is common for evaluations of health promotion programs. In the future, as more health apps are created, it is essential that apps that claim to have a public health objective undergo a rigorous evaluation of their acceptability, efficacy, and actual use. Indicators of outcomes beyond changes in behavior and knowledge should be reported; change in health status or access to care should also be reported. This systematic review has helped us note the characteristics associated with improved acceptability and efficacy, which can be helpful for the development of future apps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere25131
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Access to care
  • Health literacy
  • Health promotion
  • Migrants
  • Systematic review
  • eHealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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