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Volume 15 No. 05
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Accepted Papers

Review Articles

The Effect of Patient-Facing Applications on Positive Airway Pressure Therapy Adherence: A Systematic Review

Gaja F. Shaughnessy, MD1; Timothy I. Morgenthaler, MD1,2
1Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; 2Division of Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

Study Objectives:

Many patients struggle with adherence to positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy for sleep apnea. In this systematic review we examined the effect that patient-facing applications (PFA)—web-based applications that interact directly with the patient—have on PAP adherence.


A comprehensive search of PubMed, CINAHL, MEDLINE, and SCOPUS databases was performed. We looked for studies where: (1) patients were adults with sleep apnea initiating PAP therapy for the first time; (2) the intervention was a PFA that incorporated individual PAP use data; (3) the comparison was usual and/or telemedicine care, and (4) outcomes of objective PAP adherence data were recorded.


Seven studies were identified (two randomized trials, one prospective cohort trial, four retrospective cohort studies). Cumulatively the studies enrolled 304,328 patients, with individual enrollment ranging between 61 and 172,678 patients. Six studies showed that PFA use was associated with using PAP for significantly more hours per night (range 0.7–1.3 hours more). PFA cohorts used PAP a greater proportion of nights and had a lower rate of mask leak. There was no difference in apnea-hypopnea index and self-reported measures of symptoms between study groups.


PFA use was associated with improved adherence to PAP therapy. Although this conclusion is based on only two small trials and predominantly observational studies and therefore should be tested in large prospective trials, the PAFs are inexpensive, do not draw on health care resources, and show promise in improving PAP therapy for OSA.


Shaughnessy GF, Morgenthaler TI. The effect of patient-facing applications on positive airway pressure therapy adherence: a systematic review. J Clin Sleep Med. 2019;15(5):769–777.

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