The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) recently published a study looking at the potential for mHealth tools to better facilitate adherence to chronic disease management. It reviewed 107 studies published in peer-reviewed journals, analyzing four categories of mHealth tools (spanning SMS, phone + software or app, phone + specific instrument or device connected by chord, and phone + wireless device) with respect to their usability, feasibility, and acceptability in effective chronic disease management. What it found was a glass half empty / glass half full scenario. While there is a tremendous amount of potential for these tools to better facilitate adherence, only about 50% of them are in fact successful at doing so. The study authors define the missing links as better understanding and overcoming the specific barriers to adherence. I think there is much more to the story.
Likewise, Research2Guidance (R2G) recently published a report analyzing 725+ apps from 11 different pharma companies, resulting in the opinion that downloads and usage of pharma apps are not on par with apps from other industries. Why?
mHealth and pharma apps are really no different than any other industry app in terms of what engenders acceptance and usage. The target user is the same human being, with the same requirements. Whether you are supplying an app to manage asthma, to manage weight, or to manage travel itineraries, there are three important factors for success:
1) The information you provide must be valuable.
Ask yourself if the information and functionality included in your app is serving your company’s or your target user’s needs – is the content truly useful to the consumer? Does it deliver real value? If not, your app will land in the trash.
2) The functionality of the app must be easy to use.
Your user interface is going to dictate the success or failure of your app. No matter how valuable the information you impart may be, if it is difficult to access, it won’t be.
3) The experience of your app must be enjoyable – even fun.
The link of entertainment to successful education is nothing new – Aristotle was writing about it some 2000 years ago. The more engaging and entertaining your app, the more usage it will get. So, when you develop content for your app, don’t forget the spoonful of sugar.
mHealth tools do represent a potentially fabulous approach to helping consumers with disease and general health management. Capitalizing on the opportunity may be as easy as one, two, three.