This study by Catch members with colleagues in ScHARR has been published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research mHealth and uHealth. The study aims to evaluate the acceptance and usability of a commercially available hypertension self-management app in the Saudi context.

The use of smartphone apps to assist in the self-management of hypertension is becoming increasingly common, but few commercially available apps have the potential to be effective along with adequate security and privacy measures in place. In a previous study, we identified 5 apps that are potentially effective and safe, and based on the preferences of doctors and patients, one (Cora Health) was selected as the most suitable app for use in a Saudi context. However, there is currently no evidence of its usability and acceptance among potential users. Indeed, there has been little research into the usability and acceptance of hypertension apps in general, and less research considers this in the Gulf Region.

This study used a mixed methods approach with 2 studies: a usability test involving patients in a controlled setting performing predefined tasks and a real-world usability study where patients used the app for 4 weeks. In the usability test, participants were asked to think aloud while performing the tasks, and an observer recorded the number of tasks they completed. At the end of the real-world pilot study, participants were interviewed, and the mHealth App Usability Questionnaire was completed. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze quantitative data, and thematic analysis was used to analyze qualitative data.

In total, 10 patients completed study 1. The study found that app usability was moderate and that participants needed some familiarization time before they could use the app proficiently. Some usability issues were revealed, related to app accessibility and navigation, and a few tasks remained uncompleted by most people. A total of 20 patients completed study 2, with a mean age of 51.6 (SD 11.7) years. Study 2 found that the app was generally acceptable and easy to use, with some similar usability issues identified. Participants stressed the importance of practice and training to use it more easily and proficiently. Participants had a good engagement level with 48% retention at the end of study 2, with most participants’ engagement being classed as meaningful. The most recorded data were blood pressure, followed by stress and medication, and the most accessed feature was viewing graphs of data trends.

This study shows that a commercially available app can be usable and acceptable in the self-management of hypertension but also found a considerable number of possibilities for improvement, which needs to be considered in future app development. The results show that there is potential for a commercially available app to be used in large-scale studies of hypertension self-management if suggestions for improvements are addressed.

Please read the full study here.