A qualitative study of user perceptions of mobile health apps

Wei Peng, Shaheen Kanthawala, Shupei Yuan, Syed Ali Hussain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

185 Scopus citations


Background: Mobile apps for health exist in large numbers today, but oftentimes, consumers do not continue to use them after a brief period of initial usage, are averse toward using them at all, or are unaware that such apps even exist. The purpose of our study was to examine and qualitatively determine the design and content elements of health apps that facilitate or impede usage from the users' perceptive. Methods: In 2014, six focus groups and five individual interviews were conducted in the Midwest region of the U.S. with a mixture of 44 smartphone owners of various social economic status. The participants were asked about their general and health specific mobile app usage. They were then shown specific features of exemplar health apps and prompted to discuss their perceptions. The focus groups and interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded using the software NVivo. Results: Inductive thematic analysis was adopted to analyze the data and nine themes were identified: 1) barriers to adoption of health apps, 2) barriers to continued use of health apps, 3) motivators, 4) information and personalized guidance, 5) tracking for awareness and progress, 6) credibility, 7) goal setting, 8) reminders, and 9) sharing personal information. The themes were mapped to theories for interpretation of the results. Conclusions: This qualitative research with a diverse pool of participants extended previous research on challenges and opportunities of health apps. The findings provide researchers, app designers, and health care providers insights on how to develop and evaluate health apps from the users' perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1158
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 14 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Adoption
  • Health promotion
  • Mobile apps
  • Qualitative study
  • Self-regulation
  • Smartphone
  • Technology acceptance
  • User perception
  • mHealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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