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JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2019 Aug 26;7(8):e13494. doi: 10.2196/13494.

Behavior Change Content, Understandability, and Actionability of Chronic Condition Self-Management Apps Available in France: Systematic Search and Evaluation.

Author information

1
Équipe d'Accueil 7425 Health Services and Performance Research, Université de Lyon, Lyon, France.
2
Équipe d'Accueil 4163 Groupe de Recherche en Psychologie Sociale, Psychology Institute, Université Lumière Lyon 2, Bron, France.
3
Centre Hospitalier Lyon Sud, Pôle de Santé Publique, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Lyon, France.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The quality of life of people living with chronic conditions is highly dependent on self-management behaviors. Mobile health (mHealth) apps could facilitate self-management and thus help improve population health. To achieve their potential, apps need to target specific behaviors with appropriate techniques that support change and do so in a way that allows users to understand and act upon the content with which they interact.

OBJECTIVE:

Our objective was to identify apps targeted toward the self-management of chronic conditions and that are available in France. We aimed to examine what target behaviors and behavior change techniques (BCTs) they include, their level of understandability and actionability, and the associations between these characteristics.

METHODS:

We extracted data from the Google Play store on apps labelled as Top in the Medicine category. We also extracted data on apps that were found through 12 popular terms (ie, keywords) for the four most common chronic condition groups-cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases, and diabetes-along with apps identified through a literature search. We selected and downloaded native Android apps available in French for the self-management of any chronic condition in one of the four groups and extracted background characteristics (eg, stars and number of ratings), coded the presence of target behaviors and BCTs using the BCT taxonomy, and coded the understandability and actionability of apps using the Patient Education Material Assessment Tool for audiovisual materials (PEMAT-A/V). We performed descriptive statistics and bivariate statistical tests.

RESULTS:

A total of 44 distinct native apps were available for download in France and in French: 39 (89%) were found via the Google Play store and 5 (11%) were found via literature search. A total of 19 (43%) apps were for diabetes, 10 for cardiovascular diseases (23%), 8 for more than one condition in the four groups (18%), 6 for respiratory diseases (14%), and 1 for cancer (2%). The median number of target behaviors per app was 2 (range 0-7) and of BCTs per app was 3 (range 0-12). The most common BCT was self-monitoring of outcome(s) of behavior (31 apps), while the most common target behavior was tracking symptoms (30 apps). The median level of understandability was 42% and of actionability was 0%. Apps with more target behaviors and more BCTs were also more understandable (ρ=.31, P=.04 and ρ=.35, P=.02, respectively), but were not significantly more actionable (ρ=.24, P=.12 and ρ=.29, P=.054, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS:

These apps target few behaviors and include few BCTs, limiting their potential for behavior change. While content is moderately understandable, clear instructions on when and how to act are uncommon. Developers need to work closely with health professionals, users, and behavior change experts to improve content and format so apps can better support patients in coping with chronic conditions. Developers may use these criteria for assessing content and format to guide app development and evaluation of app performance.

TRIAL REGISTRATION:

PROSPERO CRD42018094012; https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/display_record.php?RecordID=94012.

KEYWORDS:

actionability; app; behavior change techniques; chronic conditions; mHealth; mobile phone; self-management; target behaviors; understandability

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