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Chronic Care mHealth Apps Benefit from Patient Feedback

Integrating patient feedback into the development process for chronic care mHealth apps can improve usability and satisfaction with digital health tools.

Patient Feedback Supports mHealth Chronic Care Apps

Source: Thinkstock

By Thomas Beaton

- A new study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research finds that integrating patient feedback into the chronic care mHealth app development process can increase usage, adoption, and the value of apps used to encourage self-management and collaborative care.  

The research team designed and developed an app called MyT1DHero using input from adolescent Type 1 diabetes patients and their parents, taking their feedback into account when addressing major development concerns.

This design process deviated from a problematic norm in healthcare app development, where patient-centered insight is not used in the initial design and launch.

The feedback tactics used by the researchers indicate that in order to develop a truly useful mHealth app for the chronic care of children, developers must review the preferences and habits of their potential user base.

MyT1DHero is intended to help 10-15 year olds manage their diabetes. The app records their blood glucose levels and allows parents to log into a portal to view the reading. The team soon learned that parents and patients alike wanted the app to address a broad range of care concerns, including the unpredictability of Type 1 diabetes.

Daily diabetes care is “not an exact science,” the researchers said, and sharing care responsibilities with children can complicate communication and lead to frustrations.  

Adolescents expressed feeling overwhelmed by the need to track their dietary intake and blood sugar multiple times a day, while parents worried about balancing their child’s growing independence with the need to constantly monitor their health.

The participants expressed a desire for an app that could simplify the testing and monitoring process in an interactive and positive way.  Parents suggested that the app that include motivational features such as customized alerts and nutritional information, gamification modules where the children get points and badges for self-care, and redeemable rewards such as gift cards.

Most parents appreciated that the app’s customization functions provide a more meditated approach to self-care, rather than constant “helicoptering” of their child’s diabetes.

The adolescents found the approach to be engaging while useful, and said that the design helped to limit frustrating conversations.

They also requested more immediate testing results. Previously, MyT1DHero signaled a parent when a child tested their blood glucose level, but did not immediately show the reading. Both parents and adolescents said that the app must show an immediate reading, for which the designers planned an app update.

Further considerations that the researchers plan to implement into MyT1DHero include more interactive communication tools between parents and adolescents as well as social interactivity between adolescent users.

The team believes that the findings can improve the development of future apps that effectively promote self-care adherence for other chronic conditions.

“This study also provides others with strategies that can be incorporated into the development of other health apps, including use of a patient-centered design, incorporating interactivity, use of customization, and building teams within the app.

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