JMIR mHealth and uHealth

Mobile and tablet apps, ubiquitous and pervasive computing, wearable computing and domotics for health.

Investigation of Valuable Features in Mobile Health Applications

Background: The explosion of smartphones coupled with increased expectations of the patient-consumers’ role in managing their care presents a unique opportunity to use mobile health applications (apps). Objective: This paper will attempt to identify those features and characteristics most-valued by patient-consumers (“user”) that contribute positively to the rating of an app. Methods: A collection of 234 apps associated with reputable health organizations found in the medical, health, and fitness categories of the Apple iTunes™ store and Google Play™ marketplace was assessed manually for the presence of twelve app features and characteristics. Regression analysis was used to determine which, if any, contributed positively to a user’s rating of the app. Results: Analysis of these twelve features explained less than ten percent (9.28%) of the variation in an app’s rating, with only five reaching statistical significance. Four of these five features—Plan or Orders, Export of Data, Smooth & Intuitive User Interface and Experience (UI & UX), and Cost—contributed positively to a user’s rating, while the Tracker feature detracted from it. Conclusions: The findings suggest that users appreciate features that save time over current methods: users identify an app as valuable when it is simple and intuitive to use, provides specific instructions to better manage a condition, and shares data with designated individuals. Although tracking is a core function of most health apps, this feature may detract from a user’s experience when not executed properly. Further investigation into mobile health application features is worthwhile given the inability of the most common features to explain a large portion of an app’s rating. In the future, studies should focus on one category in the app store, specific diseases, or desired behavior change, and methods should include measuring the quality of each feature, both through manual assessment and evaluation of user reviews. Additional investigation into understanding the impact of synergistic features, incentives, social media, and gamification is also warranted to identify possible future trends.

2014-08-17

JMIR mHealth and uHealth (JMU) http://mhealth.jmir.org is now the first #mhealth journal listed in PubMed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=%22JMIR+Mhealth+Uhealth%22[jour] and PubMed Central: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/journals/2531/ Please follow @JMedInternetRes on Twitter for JMU content updates and sign up for email alerts by creating a profile at http://mhealth.jmir.org/user/profile.

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Journal Description

JMIR mhealth and uhealth (mobile and ubiquitous health) (JMU, ISSN 2291-5222) is a new spin-off journal of JMIR, the leading eHealth journal (Impact Factor 2013: 4.7). The journal focusses on health and biomedical applications in mobile and tablet computing, pervasive and ubiquitous computing, wearable computing and domotics.

JMIR mHealth and uHealth publishes even faster and has a broader scope with including papers which are more technical or more formative/developmental than what would be published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
In addition to peer-reviewing paper submissions by researchers, JMIR mHealth and uHealth offers peer-review of medical apps itself (developers can submit an app for peer-review here).

JMIR mHealth and uHealth features a rapid and thorough peer-review process, professional copyediting, professional production of PDF, XHTML, and XML proofs.

JMIR mHealth and uHealth is indexed in PubMed Central/PubMed).

JMIR mHealth and uHealth adheres to the same quality standards as JMIR and all articles published here are also cross-listed in the Table of Contents of JMIR, the worlds' leading medical journal in health sciences / health services research and health informatics.

 

Recent Articles:

  • Quit4Baby Logo.

    Quit4baby: Results From a Pilot Test of a Mobile Smoking Cessation Program for Pregnant Women

    Abstract:

    Background: Text messaging (short message service, SMS) programs have been shown to be effective in helping adult smokers quit smoking. This study describes the results of a pilot test of Quit4baby, a smoking cessation text messaging program for pregnant smokers that was adapted from Text2quit. Objective: The study aimed to demonstrate the feasibility and acceptability of Quit4baby for women currently enrolled in Text4baby, a perinatal health text messaging program. Methods: Pregnant women enrolled in Text4baby and who were current smokers or had quit within the last 4 weeks (n=20) were enrolled in Quit4baby. Those under the age of 18, not pregnant, not current smokers, those using nicotine replacement therapy, and those not interested in participating were ineligible. Participants were surveyed at baseline and at 2 and 4 weeks postenrollment. Results: Most participants responded to the program favorably. Highly rated aspects included the content of the program, skills taught within the program, and encouragement and social support provided by the program. Participants reported that the program was helpful in quitting, that the program gave good ideas on quitting, and that they would recommend the program to a friend. Suggestions for improvement included increasing the message dose and making the quitpal more interactive. Conclusions: This pilot test provides support for the feasibility and acceptability of Quit4baby. Future studies are needed to assess whether Quit4baby is effective for smoking cessation during pregnancy.

  • Diet app use by sports dietitian’s country of residence.

    Diet App Use by Sports Dietitians: A Survey in Five Countries

    Abstract:

    Background: Despite the hundreds of diet apps available for use on smartphones (mobile phones), no studies have examined their use as tools for dietary assessment and tracking in sports nutrition. Objective: The aim is to examine the prevalence and perceptions of using smartphone diet apps for dietary assessment and tracking among sports dietitians. Methods: A cross-sectional online survey to examine the use and perception of diet apps was developed and distributed to sports dietitians in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States (US). Results: The overall response rate from the 1709 sports dietitians invited to participate was 10.3% (n=180). diet apps were used by 32.4% (57/176) of sports dietitians to assess and track the dietary intake of athletes. Sports dietitians from the US were more likely to use smartphone diet apps than sports dietitians from other countries (OR=5.61, 95% CI 1.84-17.08, P=.002). Sports dietitians used 28 different diet apps, with 56% (32/57) choosing MyFitnessPal. Overall, sports dietitians held a positive perception of smartphone diet apps, with the majority of respondents viewing diet apps as “better” (25/53, 47%) or “equivalent” (22/53, 41%) when compared with traditional dietary assessment methods. Conclusions: Nearly one-third of sports dietitians used mobile phone diet apps in sports nutrition practice, and viewed them as useful in helping to assess and track the dietary intake of athletes.

  • Photo by 2nix. Published on 10 April 2014 Stock Photo - Image ID: 100254315; http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/medicine-doctor-hand-working-with-modern-computer-interface-as-m-photo-p254315.

    Don’t Forget the Doctor: Gastroenterologists’ Preferences on the Development of mHealth Tools for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

    Abstract:

    Background: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) encompasses a number of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. Treatment for IBD is lifelong and complex, and the majority of IBD patients seek information on the Internet. However, research has found existing digital resources to be of questionable quality and that patients find content lacking. Gastroenterologists are frontline sources of information for North American IBD patients, but their opinions and preferences for digital content, design, and utility have not been investigated. The purpose of this study is to systematically explore gastroenterologists’ perceptions of, and design preferences for, mHealth tools. Objective: Our goal was to critically assess these issues and elicit expert feedback by seeking consensus with Canadian gastroenterologists. Methods: Using a qualitative approach, a closed meeting with 7 gastroenterologists was audio recorded and field notes taken. To synthesize results, an anonymous questionnaire was collected at the end of the session. Participant-led discussion themes included methodological approaches to non-adherence, concordance, patient-centricity, and attributes of digital tools that would be actively supported and promoted. Results: Survey results indicated that 4 of the 7 gastroenterologists had experienced patients bringing digital resources to a visit, but 5 found digital patient resources to be inaccurate or irrelevant. All participants agreed that digital tools were of increasing importance and could be leveraged to aid in consultations and save time. When asked to assess digital attributes that they would be confident to refer patients to, all seven indicated that the inclusion of evidence-based facts were of greatest importance. Patient peer-support networks were deemed an asset but only if closely monitored by experts. When asked about interventions, nearly all (6/7) preferred tools that addressed a mix of compliance and concordance, and only one supported the development of tools that focused on compliance. Participants confirmed that they would actively refer patients and other physicians to digital resources. However, while a number of digital IBD tools exist, gastroenterologists would be reluctant to endorse them. Conclusions: Gastroenterologists appear eager to use digital resources that they believe benefit the physician-patient relationship, but despite the trend of patient-centric tools that focus on concordance (shared decision making and enlightened communication between patients and their health care providers), they would prefer digital tools that highlight compliance (patient following orders). This concordance gap highlights an issue of disparity in digital health: patients may not use tools that physicians promote, and physicians may not endorse tools that patients will use. Further research investigating the concordance gap, and tensions between physician preferences and patient needs, is required.

  • (cc) Dehling et al. CC-BY-SA-2.0, please cite as (http://mhealth.jmir.org/article/viewFile/3672/1/41596). Various kinds of mHealth apps collect and offer critical, sensitive, private medical information calling for a special focus on information security and privacy of mHealth apps.

    Exploring the Far Side of Mobile Health: Information Security and Privacy of Mobile Health Apps on iOS and Android

    Abstract:

    Background: Mobile health (mHealth) apps aim at providing seamless access to tailored health information technology and have the potential to alleviate global health burdens. Yet, they bear risks to information security and privacy because users need to reveal private, sensitive medical information to redeem certain benefits. Due to the plethora and diversity of available mHealth apps, implications for information security and privacy are unclear and complex. Objective: The objective of this study was to establish an overview of mHealth apps offered on iOS and Android with a special focus on potential damage to users through information security and privacy infringements. Methods: We assessed apps available in English and offered in the categories “Medical” and “Health & Fitness” in the iOS and Android App Stores. Based on the information retrievable from the app stores, we established an overview of available mHealth apps, tagged apps to make offered information machine-readable, and clustered the discovered apps to identify and group similar apps. Subsequently, information security and privacy implications were assessed based on health specificity of information available to apps, potential damage through information leaks, potential damage through information manipulation, potential damage through information loss, and potential value of information to third parties. Results: We discovered 24,405 health-related apps (iOS; 21,953; Android; 2452). Absence or scarceness of ratings for 81.36% (17,860/21,953) of iOS and 76.14% (1867/2452) of Android apps indicates that less than a quarter of mHealth apps are in more or less widespread use. Clustering resulted in 245 distinct clusters, which were consolidated into 12 app archetypes grouping clusters with similar assessments of potential damage through information security and privacy infringements. There were 6426 apps that were excluded during clustering. The majority of apps (95.63%, 17,193/17,979; of apps) pose at least some potential damage through information security and privacy infringements. There were 11.67% (2098/17,979) of apps that scored the highest assessments of potential damages. Conclusions: Various kinds of mHealth apps collect and offer critical, sensitive, private medical information, calling for a special focus on information security and privacy of mHealth apps. In order to foster user acceptance and trust, appropriate security measures and processes need to be devised and employed so that users can benefit from seamlessly accessible, tailored mHealth apps without exposing themselves to the serious repercussions of information security and privacy infringements.

  • Case identification, StatelessVac Project.

    Application of Mobile Technology for Improving Expanded Program on Immunization Among Highland Minority and Stateless Populations in Northern Thailand Border

    Abstract:

    Background: Studies of undervaccinated children of minority/stateless populations have highlighted significant barriers at individual, community, and state levels. These include geography-related difficulties, poverty, and social norms/beliefs. Objective: The objective of this study was to assess project outcomes regarding immunization coverage, as well as maternal attitudes and practices toward immunization. Methods: The “StatelessVac” project was conducted in Thailand-Myanmar-Laos border areas using cell phone-based mechanisms to increase immunization coverage by incorporating phone-to-phone information sharing for both identification and prevention. With limitation of the study among vulnerable populations in low-resource settings, the pre/post assessments without comparison group were conducted. Immunization coverage was collected from routine monthly reports while behavior-change outcomes were from repeat surveys. Results: This study revealed potential benefits of the initiative for case identification; immunization coverage showed an improved trend. Prevention strategies were successfully integrated into the routine health care workflows of immunization activities at point-of-care. A behavior-change-communication package contributes significantly in raising both concern and awareness in relation to child care. Conclusions: The mobile technology has proven to be an effective mechanism in improving a children’s immunization program among these hard-to-reach populations. Part of the intervention has now been revised for use at health centers across the country.

  • Image courtesy of David Castillo at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

    Non-Work-Related Use of Personal Mobile Phones by Hospital Registered Nurses

    Abstract:

    Background: Personal mobile phones and other personal communication devices (smartphones and tablet computers) provide users with an ever-increasing number and diversity of non-work-related activities while at work. In hospitals, where the vigilance of health care workers is essential for patient care, the potential distraction of these devices could be hazardous to patients. Objective: The objective of this study was to determine the frequency of non-work-related use of personal mobile phones and other personal communication devices among hospital registered nurses. Methods: In March 2014, a previously validated 30-question survey was emailed to the 10,978 members of the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses. There were 825 respondents who met the inclusion criteria. Results: The use of a personal mobile phone or other personal communication device while working (excluding meal times and breaks) was reported by 78.1% (644/825) of respondents. Nurses reported regularly (sometimes, often, or always) sending personal emails and text messages (38.6%, 318/825), reading news (25.7%, 212/825), checking/posting on social networking sites (20.8%, 172/825), shopping (9.6%, 79/825), and playing games (6.5%, 54/825) while working. Conclusions: This study found that hospital nurses frequently use their personal mobile phones or other personal communication devices for non-work-related activities at work. The primary activity reported was to send personal emails and text messages to family and friends.

  • System screenshot 1.

    Patient-Provider Communications in Outpatient Clinic Settings: A Clinic-Based Evaluation of Mobile Device and Multimedia Mediated Communications for Patient...

    Abstract:

    Background: Many studies have provided evidence of the importance of quality provider-patient communications and have suggested improvements to patient understanding by using video-based instruction. Objective: The objective of this study was to understand how mobile information technology assisted video and three-dimensional (3D) image instruction, provided by a health care worker, influences two categories of outcome: (1) patient understanding of information about their condition and detailed medical discharge instructions; and (2) patient perceptions and attitudes toward their health care providers, which included physicians, nurses, and staff. We hypothesize that video and 3D image instruction, provided on a mobile, tablet hardware platform, will improve patient understanding about the diagnostic testing, diagnoses, procedures, medications, and health topics provided to them. We also propose that use of the tablet/video combination will result in improved attitudinal evaluation by patients of their providers and the treatment plan. Methods: This study evaluated a hospital clinic-based trial (patient N=284) of video and 3D image instruction, provided on a mobile, tablet hardware platform, and its potential to improve patient understanding about the diagnostic testing, diagnoses, procedures, medications, and health topics provided to them. Results: Results showed strong evidence that the system was perceived as helpful for improving patient understanding, and that it improved communication between physicians and patients (P<.001). The advanced age of some patients had no effect on their perceptions of the tablet-based mediation. Physician comments provided useful insights on effective use of such systems in the future. Implications for further development and future research are discussed. Conclusions: This study added to the body of evidence that computer-assisted video instructional systems for patients can improve patient understanding of medical instructions from their health care providers and assist with patient compliance. In addition, such systems can be appealing to both patient and provider.

  • Screenshots of the CliniCam app.

    A Mobile App for Securely Capturing and Transferring Clinical Images to the Electronic Health Record: Description and Preliminary Usability Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Photographs are important tools to record, track, and communicate clinical findings. Mobile devices with high-resolution cameras are now ubiquitous, giving clinicians the opportunity to capture and share images from the bedside. However, secure and efficient ways to manage and share digital images are lacking. Objective: The aim of this study is to describe the implementation of a secure application for capturing and storing clinical images in the electronic health record (EHR), and to describe initial user experiences. Methods: We developed CliniCam, a secure Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad) application that allows for user authentication, patient selection, image capture, image annotation, and storage of images as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file in the EHR. We leveraged our organization’s enterprise service-oriented architecture to transmit the image file from CliniCam to our enterprise clinical data repository. There is no permanent storage of protected health information on the mobile device. CliniCam also required connection to our organization’s secure WiFi network. Resident physicians from emergency medicine, internal medicine, and dermatology used CliniCam in clinical practice for one month. They were then asked to complete a survey on their experience. We analyzed the survey results using descriptive statistics. Results: Twenty-eight physicians participated and 19/28 (68%) completed the survey. Of the respondents who used CliniCam, 89% found it useful or very useful for clinical practice and easy to use, and wanted to continue using the app. Respondents provided constructive feedback on location of the photos in the EHR, preferring to have photos embedded in (or linked to) clinical notes instead of storing them as separate PDFs within the EHR. Some users experienced difficulty with WiFi connectivity which was addressed by enhancing CliniCam to check for connectivity on launch. Conclusions: CliniCam was implemented successfully and found to be easy to use and useful for clinical practice. CliniCam is now available to all clinical users in our hospital, providing a secure and efficient way to capture clinical images and to insert them into the EHR. Future clinical image apps should more closely link clinical images and clinical documentation and consider enabling secure transmission over public WiFi or cellular networks.

  • This is a screenshot of Data.Gov.

    The Long Way From Government Open Data to Mobile Health Apps: Overcoming Institutional Barriers in the US Federal Government

    Authors List:

    Abstract:

    Background: Government agencies in the United States are creating mobile health (mHealth) apps as part of recent policy changes initiated by the White House’s Digital Government Strategy. Objective: The objective of the study was to understand the institutional and managerial barriers for the implementation of mHealth, as well as the resulting adoption pathways of mHealth. Methods: This article is based on insights derived from qualitative interview data with 35 public managers in charge of promoting the reuse of open data through Challenge.gov, the platform created to run prizes, challenges, and the vetting and implementation of the winning and vendor-created apps. Results: The process of designing apps follows three different pathways: (1) entrepreneurs start to see opportunities for mobile apps, and develop either in-house or contract out to already vetted Web design vendors; (2) a top-down policy mandates agencies to adopt at least two customer-facing mobile apps; and (3) the federal government uses a policy instrument called “Prizes and Challenges”, encouraging civic hackers to design health-related mobile apps using open government data from HealthData.gov, in combination with citizen needs. All pathways of the development process incur a set of major obstacles that have to be actively managed before agencies can promote mobile apps on their websites and app stores. Conclusions: Beyond the cultural paradigm shift to design interactive apps and to open health-related data to the public, the managerial challenges include accessibility, interoperability, security, privacy, and legal concerns using interactive apps tracking citizen.

  • Self-management with the FTA supported by health counseling.

    A Mobile Health Intervention for Self-Management and Lifestyle Change for Persons With Type 2 Diabetes, Part 2: One-Year Results From the Norwegian...

    Abstract:

    Background: Self-management is crucial in the daily management of type 2 diabetes. It has been suggested that mHealth may be an important method for enhancing self-management when delivered in combination with health counseling. Objective: The objective of this study was to test whether the use of a mobile phone–based self-management system used for 1 year, with or without telephone health counseling by a diabetes specialist nurse for the first 4 months, could improve glycated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) level, self-management, and health-related quality of life compared with usual care. Methods: We conducted a 3-arm prospective randomized controlled trial involving 2 intervention groups and 1 control group. Eligible participants were persons with type 2 diabetes with an HbA1c level ≥7.1% (≥54.1 mmol/mol) and aged ≥18 years. Both intervention groups received the mobile phone–based self-management system Few Touch Application (FTA). The FTA consisted of a blood glucose–measuring system with automatic wireless data transfer, diet manual, physical activity registration, and management of personal goals, all recorded and operated using a diabetes diary app on the mobile phone. In addition, one intervention group received health counseling based on behavior change theory and delivered by a diabetes specialist nurse for the first 4 months after randomization. All groups received usual care by their general practitioner. The primary outcome was HbA1c level. Secondary outcomes were self-management (heiQ), health-related quality of life (SF-36), depressive symptoms (CES-D), and lifestyle changes (dietary habits and physical activity). Data were analyzed using univariate methods (t test, ANOVA) and multivariate linear and logistic regression. Results: A total of 151 participants were randomized: 51 to the FTA group, 50 to the FTA-health counseling (FTA-HC) group, and 50 to the control group. Follow-up data after 1 year were available for 120 participants (79%). HbA1c level decreased in all groups, but did not differ between groups after 1 year. The mean change in the heiQ domain skills and technique acquisition was significantly greater in the FTA-HC group after adjusting for age, gender, and education (P=.04). Other secondary outcomes did not differ between groups after 1 year. In the FTA group, 39% were substantial users of the app; 34% of the FTA-HC group were substantial users. Those aged ≥63 years used the app more than their younger counterparts did (OR 2.7; 95% CI 1.02-7.12; P=.045). Conclusions: The change in HbA1c level did not differ between groups after the 1-year intervention. Secondary outcomes did not differ between groups except for an increase in the self-management domain of skill and technique acquisition in the FTA-HC group. Older participants used the app more than the younger participants did.

  • Illustration of the health counselling and use of FTA.

    A Low-Intensity Mobile Health Intervention With and Without Health Counseling for Persons With Type 2 Diabetes, Part 1: Baseline and Short-Term Results From...

    Abstract:

    Background: Self-management support for people with type 2 diabetes is essential in diabetes care. Thus, mobile health technology with or without low-intensity theory-based health counseling could become an important tool for promoting self-management. Objectives: The aim was to evaluate whether the introduction of technology-supported self-management using the Few Touch Application (FTA) diabetes diary with or without health counseling improved glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels, self-management, behavioral change, and health-related quality of life, and to describe the sociodemographic, clinical, and lifestyle characteristics of the participants after 4 months. Methods: A 3-armed randomized controlled trial was conducted in Norway during 2011-2013. In the 2 intervention groups, participants were given a mobile phone for 1 year, which provided access to the FTA diary, a self-help tool that recorded 5 elements: blood glucose, food habits, physical activity, personal goal setting, and a look-up system for diabetes information. One of the intervention groups was also offered theory-based health counseling with a specialist diabetes nurse by telephone for 4 months from baseline. Both intervention groups and the control group were provided usual care according to the national guidelines. Adults with type 2 diabetes and HbA1c ≥7.1% were included (N=151). There were 3 assessment points: baseline, 4 months, and 1 year. We report the short-term findings after 4 months. HbA1c was the primary outcome and the secondary outcomes were self-management (Health Education Impact Questionnaire, heiQ), behavioral change (diet and physical activity), and health-related quality of life (SF-36 questionnaire). The data were analyzed using univariate methods (ANOVA), multivariate linear, and logistic regression. Results: Data were analyzed from 124 individuals (attrition rate was 18%). The groups were well balanced at baseline. There were no differences in HbA1c between groups after 4 months, but there was a decline in all groups. There were changes in self-management measured using the health service navigation item in the heiQ, with improvements in the FTA group compared to the control group (P=.01) and in the FTA with health counseling group compared with both other groups (P=.04). This may indicate an improvement in the ability of patients to communicate health needs to their health care providers. Furthermore, the FTA group reported higher scores for skill and technique acquisition at relieving symptoms compared to the control group (P=.02). There were no significant changes in any of the domains of the SF-36. Conclusions: The primary outcome, HbA1c, did not differ between groups after 4 months. Both of the intervention groups had significantly better scores than the control group for health service navigation and the FTA group also exhibited improved skill and technique acquisition.

  • (cc) Mather et al. CC-BY-SA-2.0, please cite as (http://mhealth.jmir.org/article/viewFile/3467/1/49464).

    Nurses’ Use of Mobile Devices to Access Information in Health Care Environments in Australia: A Survey of Undergraduate Students

    Abstract:

    Background: The growth of digital technology has created challenges for safe and appropriate use of mobile or portable devices during work-integrated learning (WIL) in health care environments. Personal and professional use of technology has outpaced the development of policy or codes of practice for guiding its use at the workplace. There is a perceived risk that portable devices may distract from provision of patient or client care if used by health professionals or students during employment or WIL. Objective: This study aimed to identify differences in behavior of undergraduate nurses in accessing information, using a portable or mobile device, when undertaking WIL compared to other non-work situations. Methods: A validated online survey was administered to students while on placement in a range of health care settings in two Australian states. Results: There were 84 respondents, with 56% (n=47) reporting access to a mobile or portable device. Differences in use of a mobile device away from, compared with during WIL, were observed for non-work related activities such as messaging (P<.001), social networking (P<.001), shopping on the Internet (P=.01), conducting personal business online (P=.01), and checking or sending non-work related texts or emails to co-workers (P=.04). Study-related activities were conducted more regularly away from the workplace and included accessing University sites for information (P=.03) and checking or sending study-related text messages or emails to friends or co-workers (P=.01). Students continued to access nursing, medical, professional development, and study-related information away from the workplace. Conclusions: Undergraduate nurses limit their access to non-work or non-patient centered information while undertaking WIL. Work-related mobile learning is being undertaken, in situ, by the next generation of nurses who expect easy access to mobile or portable devices at the workplace, to ensure safe and competent care is delivered to their patients.

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Latest Submissions Open for Peer-Review:

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  • Investigation of Valuable Features in Mobile Health Applications

    Date Submitted: Jan 26, 2015

    Open Peer Review Period: Jan 27, 2015 - Feb 4, 2015

    Background: The explosion of smartphones coupled with increased expectations of the patient-consumers’ role in managing their care presents a unique opportunity to use mobile health applications (ap...

    Background: The explosion of smartphones coupled with increased expectations of the patient-consumers’ role in managing their care presents a unique opportunity to use mobile health applications (apps). Objective: This paper will attempt to identify those features and characteristics most-valued by patient-consumers (“user”) that contribute positively to the rating of an app. Methods: A collection of 234 apps associated with reputable health organizations found in the medical, health, and fitness categories of the Apple iTunes™ store and Google Play™ marketplace was assessed manually for the presence of twelve app features and characteristics. Regression analysis was used to determine which, if any, contributed positively to a user’s rating of the app. Results: Analysis of these twelve features explained less than ten percent (9.28%) of the variation in an app’s rating, with only five reaching statistical significance. Four of these five features—Plan or Orders, Export of Data, Smooth & Intuitive User Interface and Experience (UI & UX), and Cost—contributed positively to a user’s rating, while the Tracker feature detracted from it. Conclusions: The findings suggest that users appreciate features that save time over current methods: users identify an app as valuable when it is simple and intuitive to use, provides specific instructions to better manage a condition, and shares data with designated individuals. Although tracking is a core function of most health apps, this feature may detract from a user’s experience when not executed properly. Further investigation into mobile health application features is worthwhile given the inability of the most common features to explain a large portion of an app’s rating. In the future, studies should focus on one category in the app store, specific diseases, or desired behavior change, and methods should include measuring the quality of each feature, both through manual assessment and evaluation of user reviews. Additional investigation into understanding the impact of synergistic features, incentives, social media, and gamification is also warranted to identify possible future trends.