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Diabetol Metab Syndr. 2019 Oct 16;11:84. doi: 10.1186/s13098-019-0480-4. eCollection 2019.

Mobile phone applications and their use in the self-management of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: a qualitative study among app users and non-app users.

Author information

1Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia.
2University of Sydney, University Centre for Rural Health, Sydney, Australia.
3Western Sydney University, University Centre for Rural Health, 61 Uralba Street, Lismore, NSW 2480 Australia.
4School of Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
Contributed equally



Mobile phone applications (apps) have been shown to successfully facilitate the self-management of chronic disease. This study aims to evaluate firstly the experiences, barriers and facilitators to app usage among people with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) and secondly determine recommendations to improve usage of diabetes apps.


Participants were aged ≥ 18 years with a diagnosis of T2DM for ≥ 6 months. Semi-structured phone-interviews were conducted with 16 app and 14 non-app users. Interviews were based on the Technology Acceptance Model, Health Information Technology Acceptance Model (HITAM) and the Mobile Application Rating Scale. Data were analysed using deductive content analysis.


Most app-users found apps improved their T2DM self-management and health. The recommendation of apps by health professionals, as well as positive interactions with them, improved satisfaction; however, only a minority of patients had practitioners involved in their app use. All non-app users had never had the concept discussed with them by a health professional. Facilitators to app use included the visual representation of trends, intuitive navigation and convenience (for example, discretion and portability). Barriers to app use were participant's lack of knowledge and awareness of apps as healthcare tools, perceptions of disease severity, technological and health literacy or practical limitations such as rural connectivity. Factors contributing to app use were classified into a framework based on the Health Belief Model and HITAM. Recommendations for future app design centred on educational features, which were currently lacking (e.g. diabetes complications, including organ damage and hypoglycaemic episodes), monitoring and tracking features (e.g. blood glucose level monitoring with trends and dynamic tips and comorbidities) and nutritional features (e.g. carbohydrate counters). Medication reminders were not used by participants. Lastly, participants felt that receiving weekly text-messaging relating to their self-management would be appropriate.


The incorporation of user-centred features, which engage T2DM consumers in self-management tasks, can improve health outcomes. The findings may guide app developers and entrepreneurs in improving app design and usability. Given self-management is a significant factor in glycaemic control, these findings are significant for GPs, nurse practitioners and allied health professionals who may integrate apps into a holistic management plan which considers strategies outside the clinical environment.


Digital technology; Mobile phone apps; Self-management; Smart phone; Type two diabetes mellitus; User experience; ehealth; mhealth

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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