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      Creating connections – the development of a mobile-health monitoring system for heart failure: Qualitative findings from a usability cohort study

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          There is significant interest in the role of digital health technology in enabling optimal monitoring of heart failure patients. To harness this potential, it is vital to account for users’ capacity and preferences in the development of technological solutions. We adopted an iterative approach focussed on learning from users’ interactions with a mobile-health monitoring system.


          We used a participatory mixed methods research approach to develop and evaluate a mobile-health monitoring system. Fifty-eight heart failure patients were recruited from three health care settings in the UK and provided with Internet-enabled tablet computers that were wirelessly linked to sensor devices for blood pressure, heart rate and weight monitoring. One to two home visits were conducted with a subgroup of 29 participants to evaluate the usability of the system over a median follow-up period of six months. The thematic analysis of observational data and 45 interviews was informed by the domestication of technology theory.


          Our findings indicate that digital health technologies need to create and extend connections with health professionals, be incorporated into users’ daily routines, and be personalised according to users’ technological competencies and interest in assuming a proactive or more passive role in monitoring their condition.


          Users' patterns of engagement with health technology changes over time and varies according to their need and capacity to use the technology. Incorporating diverse user experiences in the development and maintenance of mobile-health systems is likely to increase the extent of successful uptake and impacts on outcomes for patients and providers.

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          Most cited references 27

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          Designing and evaluating complex interventions to improve health care.

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            Telemonitoring in patients with heart failure.

            Small studies suggest that telemonitoring may improve heart-failure outcomes, but its effect in a large trial has not been established. We randomly assigned 1653 patients who had recently been hospitalized for heart failure to undergo either telemonitoring (826 patients) or usual care (827 patients). Telemonitoring was accomplished by means of a telephone-based interactive voice-response system that collected daily information about symptoms and weight that was reviewed by the patients' clinicians. The primary end point was readmission for any reason or death from any cause within 180 days after enrollment. Secondary end points included hospitalization for heart failure, number of days in the hospital, and number of hospitalizations. The median age of the patients was 61 years; 42.0% were female, and 39.0% were black. The telemonitoring group and the usual-care group did not differ significantly with respect to the primary end point, which occurred in 52.3% and 51.5% of patients, respectively (difference, 0.8 percentage points; 95% confidence interval [CI], -4.0 to 5.6; P=0.75 by the chi-square test). Readmission for any reason occurred in 49.3% of patients in the telemonitoring group and 47.4% of patients in the usual-care group (difference, 1.9 percentage points; 95% CI, -3.0 to 6.7; P=0.45 by the chi-square test). Death occurred in 11.1% of the telemonitoring group and 11.4% of the usual care group (difference, -0.2 percentage points; 95% CI, -3.3 to 2.8; P=0.88 by the chi-square test). There were no significant differences between the two groups with respect to the secondary end points or the time to the primary end point or its components. No adverse events were reported. Among patients recently hospitalized for heart failure, telemonitoring did not improve outcomes. The results indicate the importance of a thorough, independent evaluation of disease-management strategies before their adoption. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; number, NCT00303212.).
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              Mobile Applications for Diabetics: A Systematic Review and Expert-Based Usability Evaluation Considering the Special Requirements of Diabetes Patients Age 50 Years or Older

              Background A multitude of mhealth (mobile health) apps have been developed in recent years to support effective self-management of patients with diabetes mellitus type 1 or 2. Objective We carried out a systematic review of all currently available diabetes apps for the operating systems iOS and Android. We considered the number of newly released diabetes apps, range of functions, target user groups, languages, acquisition costs, user ratings, available interfaces, and the connection between acquisition costs and user ratings. Additionally, we examined whether the available applications serve the special needs of diabetes patients aged 50 or older by performing an expert-based usability evaluation. Methods We identified relevant keywords, comparative categories, and their specifications. Subsequently, we performed the app review based on the information given in the Google Play Store, the Apple App Store, and the apps themselves. In addition, we carried out an expert-based usability evaluation based on a representative 10% sample of diabetes apps. Results In total, we analyzed 656 apps finding that 355 (54.1%) offered just one function and 348 (53.0%) provided a documentation function. The dominating app language was English (85.4%, 560/656), patients represented the main user group (96.0%, 630/656), and the analysis of the costs revealed a trend toward free apps (53.7%, 352/656). The median price of paid apps was €1.90. The average user rating was 3.6 stars (maximum 5). Our analyses indicated no clear differences in the user rating between free and paid apps. Only 30 (4.6%) of the 656 available diabetes apps offered an interface to a measurement device. We evaluated 66 apps within the usability evaluation. On average, apps were rated best regarding the criterion “comprehensibility” (4.0 out of 5.0), while showing a lack of “fault tolerance” (2.8 out of 5.0). Of the 66 apps, 48 (72.7%) offered the ability to read the screen content aloud. The number of functions was significantly negative correlated with usability. The presence of documentation and analysis functions reduced the usability score significantly by 0.36 and 0.21 points. Conclusions A vast number of diabetes apps already exist, but the majority offer similar functionalities and combine only one to two functions in one app. Patients and physicians alike should be involved in the app development process to a greater extent. We expect that the data transmission of health parameters to physicians will gain more importance in future applications. The usability of diabetes apps for patients aged 50 or older was moderate to good. But this result applied mainly to apps offering a small range of functions. Multifunctional apps performed considerably worse in terms of usability. Moreover, the presence of a documentation or analysis function resulted in significantly lower usability scores. The operability of accessibility features for diabetes apps was quite limited, except for the feature “screen reader”.

                Author and article information

                Digit Health
                Digit Health
                Digital health
                SAGE Publications (Sage UK: London, England )
                10 October 2016
                Jan-Dec 2016
                : 2
                [1 ]George Institute for Global Health, University of Oxford, UK
                [2 ]London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
                [3 ]Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Oxford, UK
                [4 ]Health Services Research Unit, University of Oxford, UK
                [5 ]Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Oxford, UK
                Author notes
                Tracey Chantler, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 15–17 Tavistock Place, London WC1E 9SH, UK. Email: tracey.chantler@
                © The Author(s) 2016

                This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

                Original Research
                Custom metadata
                January-December 2016


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