What consumers want in personal health applications: Findings from Project HealthDesign
As part of the first round of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Project HealthDesign grants, a personal health application (PHA) called ActivHealth was designed to provide personalized advice and tracking of physical activity to healthcare consumers. A key element in the design was a series of 3 focus groups with consumers about their needs and preferences for a PHA. Participants included 28 adult sedentary healthcare consumers from the community who were recruited through local medical practices. The focus groups sought to obtain input on desired features (e.g., design, data inputs, calendars, supportive messaging), privacy concerns, cost/value propositions, and preferences for communication with others (e.g., friends, family, healthcare providers) for the PHA. The focus groups progressed from identifying consumer needs to a user evaluation of a prototype PHA. The focus group discussions and user testing identified a number of major themes in consumer desires for a physical activity PHA: (a) ability to track a wide variety of activities, (b) intuitive user-friendly interface, (c) consumer-controlled access to health and activity information, (d) need for significant data security protections, (e) social features that allow users to engage family and friends, (f) ability to share data and communication with healthcare providers, and (g) tools to allow the consumer to plan, track, and change their physical activity. The findings were helpful not only in constructing the ActivHealth PHA, but also in identifying consumer needs for similar applications that help consumers to achieve their health improvement goals.