Nearly Half of Downloaders Stop Using Mobile Health Apps, why?

Few U.S. residents who download mobile health applications continue using them over time, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research mHealth and uHealth, Medical News Today reports.

Meanwhile, 46% of respondents said they have stopped using a health app because of:

  • Costs;
  • Privacy concerns; or
  • Waning interest (Ellis, Medical News Today, 11/3).

Details of Study

For the study -- which was funded by the Verizon Foundation -- NYU Langone Medical Center researchers conducted a 36-question online survey (Mastroianni, CBS News, 11/3).

The survey included 1,604 smartphone owners who were 40 years old on average.

Survey Findings

The survey found that 58% of respondents said they had downloaded at least one health app, while 42% said they had downloaded five or more health apps.

Of the respondents who reported downloading such apps, 65% said they used a health app daily. Respondents most likely to use health apps generally were younger, more educated, earned higher incomes, Hispanic or obese.

Among the apps that respondents reported downloading:

  • 53% tracked physical activity;
  • 48% tracked food intake;
  • 47% tracked weight loss; and
  • 34% provided exercise instructions.

When asked about how much they were willing to pay for mobile health apps:

  • 41% of respondents said they would never pay for such an app;
  • 20% said they would pay up to $1.99; and
  • 23% said they would pay between $2 and $5.99 (Medical News Today, 11/3).


Study author Paul Krebs said that the findings indicate that "there has to be a greater usability testing" of mobile health apps, adding, "A big barrier for people who have not been using the apps, or those who tried and stopped using them, was the difficulty of use" and the burden of data entry.

Krebs said such apps should be subject to clinical trials and evidence-based testing.

Co-author Dustin Duncan said there also is a "missed opportunity" to tailor health apps for "certain minority communities that experience health disparities" (CBS News, 11/3).

Source: iHealthBeat, Thursday, November 5, 2015
We agree that there needs to be more usability testing of mobile health apps, but usability testing usually happens only towards the end of the Software Development LifeCycle (SDLC). HealthIT vendors need to start working with with Usability People at the beginning of the process. Doing so can significantly reduce development costs, training costs, documentation costs, and ultimately training and support costs.

The ISO 9241 definition of usability includes these three factors: Effective, Efficient and Satisfying. In order for end users to perceive an app as usable it needs to do something useful (effective), do it well (efficient) and provide a positive emotional experience (satisfying).

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