What do people want from health apps?

| November 28, 2013

What Do Patients WantA survey of 250 patient and consumer groups Brought to you by PatientView

During May to June 2013, PatientView undertook a pilot survey of 250 disparate patient and consumer groups worldwide. The aim was to determine the qualities people seek in their health apps, learn which of these qualities is the most important, and find out how needs vary among different patients and people. The study was a scoping exercise, with more substantive research by PatientView (in conjunction with myhealthapps.net) scheduled to follow in 2014. The results of this pilot study have been skewed by the fact that 81% of the participants came from one country (the UK). However, analysis of the data indicates that people who experience similar health challenges (lifestyle issues, for instance, or heart disease) share common needs from a health app irrespective of their location in the world.

The survey results confirm: People specify five main requirements of health apps.

Apps need to …

1. Give people more control over their condition, or keep them healthy

2. Be easy to use

3. Be able to be used regularly

4. Allow networking with other people like them, or with people who understand them.

5. Be trustworthy

These needs carry different priorities. When the 250 respondents were asked to state the single most-important property that health apps should have to meet their needs, the following results were obtained:

  • 35.2% Apps that make me feel more on control of my condition
  • 25.6% Apps that are easy
  • 25.1% Apps that I feel are trustworthy
  • 11.2% Apps that let ne network with other people like me
  • 2.6% Apps that I can use regularly

Also clear is that people with different medical conditions and lifestyle challenges nevertheless share priorities in what they are seeking out of health apps. Thus:

People with a long-term chronic condition (such as diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, HIV/AIDS, learning difficulties, a rare disease, or urinary complaints) all specify that their top priority for a health app is for it to give them more control of their disability. This finding is important, as it shows that people do not just want passive information—they wish to receive support in managing their condition

People with a disability that affects personal mobility (such as a skin disorder or a rheumatological condition) place ease of use as top priority for their apps. Conversely, other patients or members of the public are happy to compromise on ease of use provided that the app really helps them.

People with a complex condition which might be difficult to diagnose or treat (such as a bone disorder or an endocrine condition) see trustworthiness as the top priority for their apps. A reduced emphasis on trustworthiness among other respondents may simply be because many people assume that apps are innately trustworthy.

People with a sexual health problem, or an infectious disease, or ordinary members of the public, stipulate that the top priority for a health app is that it ought to allow them to network with other people like them, or with people who understand them.

Surprisingly few people insist that the priority for a health app is that it should be capable of regular use (although 42% stated that this is one of the desirable properties of a health app). The main message here is that patients and the public might view apps as a ‘regular solution’, as one among a series of tools to support their health situation.

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