Why, how and when do people use (and stop using) type 2 diabetes self-care apps?

We explore users’ experiences with the ‘My Diabetes Coach’ app

By Shaira Baptista

To live well with diabetes, there are many things to know, do and track. Diabetes self-care apps have become popular in recent years, as they can support people with diabetes to manage their condition.

The ‘My Diabetes Coach’ app was developed for people with type 2 diabetes by Prof Brian Oldenburg and colleagues. A randomised controlled trial showed that the app improved users’ health-related quality of life. But it also showed that more work is needed to maintain app usage and improve glucose levels. So, to find out more about why, how and when people use (and stop using) apps, we interviewed people with type 2 diabetes who had access to ‘My Diabetes Coach’ for up to 12 months.

We asked people how they used ‘My Diabetes Coach’ in their everyday lives and what they liked and did not like about the app. We found that different people have different needs when it comes to the type of support they prefer from an app. For example, those that describe themselves as being confident in their diabetes self-care want an app that supports them to be independent. For these people, it is important that an app provides detailed, accurate information and advanced tracking tools. On the other hand, people who describe themselves as less confident in their diabetes self-care want a simple app that is easy to use, can tell them what they need to do and motivate them to keep going with their self-care.

Users also talked about wanting flexibility in how they use the app. For example, while some like listening to the content, others prefer to read the text on the screen. It is also important that users can choose when they use the app, so that it fits in with the other priorities in their everyday lives. 

This study shows that one size does not fit all when it comes to diabetes self-care apps. More work is needed to understand individuals’ needs and preferences, and to design apps that suit a range of people.

Baptista S, Wadley G, Bird D, Oldenburg B, Speight J on behalf of the My Diabetes Coach Research Group. User experiences with a type 2 diabetes coaching app: a qualitative study. JMIR Diabetes. 2020/7/17 2020;5(3):e16692.

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