NPJ Digit Med. 2021 Oct 14;4(1):149. doi: 10.1038/s41746-021-00513-5.
Physical mobility is essential to health, and patients often rate it as a high-priority clinical outcome. Digital mobility outcomes (DMOs), such as real-world gait speed or step count, show promise as clinical measures in many medical conditions. However, current research is nascent and fragmented by discipline. This scoping review maps existing evidence on the clinical utility of DMOs, identifying commonalities across traditional disciplinary divides. In November 2019, 11 databases were searched for records investigating the validity and responsiveness of 34 DMOs in four diverse medical conditions (Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hip fracture). Searches yielded 19,672 unique records. After screening, 855 records representing 775 studies were included and charted in systematic maps. Studies frequently investigated gait speed (70.4% of studies), step length (30.7%), cadence (21.4%), and daily step count (20.7%). They studied differences between healthy and pathological gait (36.4%), associations between DMOs and clinical measures (48.8%) or outcomes (4.3%), and responsiveness to interventions (26.8%). Gait speed, step length, cadence, step time and step count exhibited consistent evidence of validity and responsiveness in multiple conditions, although the evidence was inconsistent or lacking for other DMOs. If DMOs are to be adopted as mainstream tools, further work is needed to establish their predictive validity, responsiveness, and ecological validity. Cross-disciplinary efforts to align methodology and validate DMOs may facilitate their adoption into clinical practice.