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Designing a Self-Management App for Young People With Type 1 Diabetes: Methodological Challenges, Experiences, and Recommendations

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BACKGROUND: Young people with type 1 diabetes often struggle to self-manage their disease. Mobile health (mHealth) apps show promise in supporting self-management of chronic conditions such as type 1 diabetes. Many health care providers become involved in app development. Unfortunately, limited information is available to guide their selection of appropriate methods, techniques, and tools for a participatory design (PD) project in health care.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of our study was to develop an mHealth app to support young people in self-managing type 1 diabetes. This paper presents our methodological recommendations based on experiences and reflections from a 2-year research study.

METHODS: A mixed methods design was used to identify user needs before designing the app and testing it in a randomized controlled trial. App design was based on qualitative, explorative, interventional, and experimental activities within an overall iterative PD approach. Several techniques and tools were used, including workshops, a mail panel, think-aloud tests, and a feasibility study.

RESULTS: The final mHealth solution was "Young with Diabetes" (YWD). The iterative PD approach supported researchers and designers in understanding the needs of end users (ie, young people, parents, and health care providers) and their assessment of YWD, as well as how to improve app usability and feasibility. It is critical to include all end user groups during all phases of a PD project and to establish a multidisciplinary team to provide the wide range of expertise required to build a usable and useful mHealth app.

CONCLUSIONS: Future research is needed to develop and evaluate more efficient PD techniques. Health care providers need guidance on what tools and techniques to choose for which subgroups of users and guidance on how to introduce an app to colleagues to successfully implement an mHealth app in health care organizations. These steps are important for anyone who wants to design an mHealth app for any illness.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Volume5
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)e124
ISSN2291-5222
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2017

    Research areas

  • Journal Article

ID: 51905867