Study: Mobile health device fatigue hinders user engagement, even among chronically ill

Healthy people stay engaged with mobile health devices longer than those managing a chronic disease, yet overall, device adherence by both groups drops over time due to device fatigue and the challenge of managing more than one device, according to the results of a small study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA).

A research, involving three healthy and three chronically ill participants, collected data on 11 health indicators via four devices and a diet app. Those who were healthy averaged an overall weekly use of 76 percent, while those suffering from chronic illness averaged 16 percent.

The authors cite device fatigue as a major culprit, as well as user difficulty in managing devices and apps. The researchers also note that devices may need to be tailored to meet specific patient needs if mHealth's promise is to be attained.

"Although mobile health devices offer a unique opportunity to capture patient health data remotely, it is unclear whether patients will consistently use multiple devices simultaneously and/or if chronic disease affects adherence," the study's authors say.

The drop off in device use may also be tied to a reluctance to share personal and confidential data, FierceMobileHealthcare reported earlier this month. That study reveals that while most mHealth users are willing to share information and receive medication reminders and lab results via a device, more are protective of sensitive information, such as diagnostic information.

In addition, the chronically ill, which tends to be an older demographic, are more wary of mobile technology than younger (and typically healthier) consumers and prefer more one-on-one, in-person healthcare management.

The JAMIA study concludes that in order to leverage mobile health in chronic disease management further, study of device use adherence is needed, as well as investigation into the feasibility to collect, display and secure data in a unified system.

"Despite the excitement about the potential for these devices to improve health, their successful adoption by consumers and patients for routine self-monitoring remains uncertain," the authors say.

For more information:
- read the JAMIA abstract