A clinician-led, experience-based co-design approach for developing mHealth services to support the patient self-management of chronic conditions: Development study and design case

Publication Name

JMIR mHealth and uHealth


Background: Despite the increasing use of mobile health (mHealth) services, such as mHealth apps or SMS text messaging services, that support the patient self-management of chronic conditions, many existing mHealth services lack theoretical guidance. In addition, although often the target audience for requirement acquisition at the initial mHealth app design stage, it is a common challenge for them to fully conceptualize their needs for mHealth services that help self-manage chronic conditions. Objective: This study proposes a novel co-design approach with the initial requirements for mHealth services proposed by clinicians based on their experiences in guiding patients to self-manage chronic conditions. A design case is presented to illustrate our innovative approach to designing an mHealth app that supports the self-management of patients with obesity in their preparation for elective surgery. Methods: We adopted a clinician-led co-design approach. The co-design approach consisted of the following four cyclic phases: understanding user needs, identifying an applicable underlying theory, integrating the theory into the prototype design, and evaluating and refining the prototype mHealth services with patients. Expert panel discussions, a literature review, intervention mapping, and patient focus group discussions were conducted in these four phases. Results: In stage 1, the expert panel proposed the following three common user needs: motivational, educational, and supportive needs. In stage 2, the team selected the Social Cognitive Theory to guide the app design. In stage 3, the team designed and developed the key functions of the mHealth app, including automatic push notifications; web-based resources; goal setting and monitoring; and interactive health-related exchanges that encourage physical activity, healthy eating, psychological preparation, and a positive outlook for elective surgery. Push notifications were designed in response to a patient's risk level, as informed by the person's response to a baseline health survey. In stage 4, the prototype mHealth app was used to capture further requirements from patients in the two focus group discussions. Focus group participants affirmed the potential benefits of the app and suggested more requirements for the function, presentation, and personalization needs. The app was improved based on these suggestions. Conclusions: This study reports an innovative co-design approach that was used to leverage the clinical experiences of clinicians to produce the initial prototype app and the approach taken to allow patients to effectively voice their needs and expectations for the mHealth app in a focus group discussion. This approach can be generalized to the design of any mHealth service that aims to support the patient self-management of chronic conditions.

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Funding Sponsor

Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute



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