Examining usage behavior of a goal-supporting mHealth app in primary care among patients with multiple chronic conditions: A qualitative study

Farah Tashin, Tujuanna Austin, Brian McKinstry, Stewart W Mercer, Mayura Loganathan, Kednapa Thavorn, Ross Upshur, Carolyn Steele Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND: Although mobile health (mHealth) apps are increasingly being used to support patients with multiple chronic conditions (multimorbidity), most mHealth apps experience low interaction and eventual abandonment. To tackle this engagement issue, when developing an mHealth program, it is important to understand the social-behavioral factors that affect patients' use behavior.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to explore the social and behavioral factors contributing to patients' use behavior of an mHealth app called the electronic Patient-Reported Outcome (ePRO). The ePRO app supports goal-oriented care delivery in interdisciplinary primary care models.

METHODS: A descriptive qualitative study was used to analyze interview data collected for a larger mixed methods pragmatic trial. The original 15-month trial was conducted in 6 primary care teams across Ontario, Canada, between 2018 and 2019. The eligibility criteria for patients were being aged ≥60 years with ≥10 visits within the previous 12 months of study enrollment. For this analysis, patients were classified as long-term or short-term users based on their length of use of the ePRO app during the trial. The Social Cognitive Theory by Bandura was used to categorize social-behavioral factors that contributed to patients' decision to continue or discontinue using the app.

RESULTS: The patient-provider relationship emerged as a key factor that shaped patients' experiences with the app and subsequent decision to continue using the app. Other factors that contributed to patients' decision to continue using the app were personal and social circumstances, perceived usefulness, patients' previous experience with goal-related behaviors, and confidence in one's capability. There was an overlap of experience between long- and short-term app users but, in general, long-term users perceived the app to be more useful and their goals to be more meaningful than short-term app users. This observation was complicated by the fact that patient health-related goals were dynamic and changed over time.

CONCLUSIONS: Complex patients' use behavior of a goal-supporting mHealth app is shaped by an array of sociobehavioral factors that can evolve. To tackle this dynamism, there should be an emphasis on creating adaptable health technologies that are easily customizable by patients and able to respond to their changing contexts and needs.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02917954; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02917954.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere37684
JournalJMIR Human Factors
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • app
  • behavior
  • chronic disease management
  • goal-oriented care
  • health technology
  • human factors
  • mHealth
  • mobile health
  • mobile phone
  • multimorbid
  • multimorbidity
  • primary care
  • sociobehavioral
  • telemedicine
  • usability
  • use


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