Accepted for/Published in: JMIR mHealth and uHealth
Date Submitted: Dec 12, 2019
Date Accepted: Jun 3, 2020
Barriers to and facilitators of the prescription of mHealth apps in Australian general practice: a qualitative study
The ubiquity of smartphones and health apps make them a potential self-management tool for patients that could be prescribed by medical professionals. However, little is known about how Australian general practitioners (GPs) and their patients view the possibility of health app prescription.
To determine barriers and facilitators to prescribing mHealth apps in Australian general practice from the perspective of GPs and patients.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted in Australian general practice settings. GPs and patients were purposively sampled. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Transcripts were coded and analysed thematically by two researchers.
Twenty GPs and 15 adult patients were interviewed. From the GPs’ perspective barriers to prescribing apps were: a generational difference in the digital propensity for GPs and patients; lack of knowledge of prescribable apps and trustworthy sources to access them; the time commitment required of GPs and patients to learn and use the apps; and concerns about privacy, safety, and trustworthiness of health apps. Facilitators from GPs’ perspectives were trustworthy sources to access prescribable apps and information, and younger generation and widespread smartphone ownership. From patients’ perspective, the main barriers for older patients and the usability of the apps. Patients were not concerned about privacy and data safety issues regarding health app use. The facilitators for patients were the ubiquity of smartphones and apps especially for the younger generation, and recommendation of apps by doctors. Evidence of effectiveness was identified as an independent theme from both GPs’ and patients’ perspective.
mHealth app prescription appears to be feasible in general practice. The barriers and facilitators identified from the GPs and patients’ perspectives overlapped, though privacy was of less concern to patients. Involvement of health professionals and patients is vital for successful integration of effective, evidence-based mHealth apps with clinical practice.
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