Study: 3 barriers to widespread use of post-discharge mHealth apps

A study in JMIR mHealth and uHealth investigated whether patient use of a postoperative smartphone app could facilitate better communication and care coordination following hospital discharge.

The researchers — led by Aaron R. Scott, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston — enrolled 20 participants from a hospital that primary serves low socioeconomic status patients. Following colorectal surgery, these patients were given a smartphone app that provided symptom-based recommendations. The participants were told to use the app each day for two weeks after discharge.

The researchers found patients gave the app high usability ratings. However, 30 percent of patients never used the app at home and 10 percent only used the app once. After 17 follow-up interviews, the researchers identified three themes related to app use: individual patient-related barriers, patients viewing the app as a secondary option and patients perceiving the app as an external burden.

"This study shows that high usability alone is not sufficient to motivate patients to use smartphone apps in the postoperative period," the researchers concluded. "The growing penetration of smartphones and the proliferation of app-based interventions are unlikely to improve care coordination and communication, unless apps address the barriers and patient perceptions identified in this study."

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