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JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2019 Jan 16;7(1):e11885. doi: 10.2196/11885.

Factors for Supporting Primary Care Physician Engagement With Patient Apps for Type 2 Diabetes Self-Management That Link to Primary Care: Interview Study.

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Sydney Health Literacy Lab, Sydney School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
Ask, Share, Know: Rapid Evidence for General Practice Decisions Centre for Research Excellence, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
Western Sydney Diabetes, Western Sydney Local Health District, Blacktown, Australia.
School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, Blacktown, Australia.
Sydney School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.



The health burden of type 2 diabetes can be mitigated by engaging patients in two key aspects of diabetes care: self-management and regular contact with health professionals. There is a clear benefit to integrating these aspects of care into a single clinical tool, and as mobile phone ownership increases, apps become a more feasible platform. However, the effectiveness of online health interventions is contingent on uptake by health care providers, which is typically low. There has been little research that focuses specifically on barriers and facilitators to health care provider uptake for interventions that link self-management apps to the user's primary care physician (PCP).


This study aimed to explore PCP perspectives on proposed features for a self-management app for patients with diabetes that would link to primary care services.


Researchers conducted 25 semistructured interviews. The interviewer discussed potential features that would link in with the patient's primary care services. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded. Framework analysis and the Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research checklist were employed to ensure rigor.


Our analysis indicated that PCP attitudes toward proposed features for an app were underpinned by perceived roles of (1) diabetes self-management, (2) face-to-face care, and (3) the anticipated burden of new technologies on their practice. Theme 1 explored PCP perceptions about how an app could foster patient independence for self-management behaviors but could also increase responsibility and liability for the PCP. Theme 2 identified beliefs underpinning a commonly expressed preference for face-to-face care. PCPs perceived information was more motivating, better understood, and presented with greater empathy when delivered face to face rather than online. Theme 3 described how most PCPs anticipated an initial increase in workload while they learned to use a new clinical tool. Some PCPs accepted this burden on the basis that the change was inevitable as health care became more integrated. Others reported potential benefits were outweighed by effort to implement an app. This study also identified how app features can be positively framed, highlighting potential benefits for PCPs to maximize PCP engagement, buy-in, and uptake. For example, PCPs were more positive when they perceived that an app could facilitate communication and motivation between consultations, focus on building capacity for patient independence, and reinforce rather than replace in-person care. They were also more positive about app features that were automated, integrated with existing software, flexible for different patients, and included secondary benefits such as improved documentation.


This study provided insight into PCP perspectives on a diabetes app integrated with primary care services. This was observed as more than a technological change; PCPs were concerned about changes in workload, their role in self-management, and the nature of consultations. Our research highlighted potential facilitators and barriers to engaging PCPs in the implementation process.


diabetes mellitus, type 2; electronic health records; general practitioners; mobile apps; physicians, primary care; qualitative research; self-management; telemedicine; translational medical research

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