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iMedicalApps and JMIR Publications have partnered to help disseminate interesting & innovative digital health research being done worldwide. Each article in this series will feature summaries of interesting studies to help you keep up to date on the latest in digital health research. We invite you to share your thoughts on the study in the comments section.

A Mobile Phone Application to Stimulate Daily Physical Activity in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Patients: Development, Feasibility and Piloting

1. What was the motivation behind your study?

Physical activity is a relevant behavioral determinant for patients with chronic diseases, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), to maintain physical condition and to improve health-related quality of life. COPD mostly affects older adults and patients have trouble maintaining a healthy level of physical activity. An eHealth intervention might be beneficial in the self-management of physical activity in patients with COPD.

2. Describe your study.

The objective of this study was to develop an eHealth intervention to support patients with COPD in improving or maintaining physical activity after pulmonary rehabilitation. We investigated what type of interface is adequate and feasible toward obtaining this objective and evaluated the resultant eHealth intervention in terms of usability and privacy in pilot studies.

3. What were the results of the study?

Using a smartphone as an interface met all the requirements. Subjects found that the application was stimulating and that reaching their physical activity goal was rewarding. Scores on a 7-point scale for usability, ease of use, ease of learning, and contentment were 3.8±1.8, 5.1±1.1, 6.0±1.6, and 4.8±1.3, respectively. Correlation between the smartphone and a validated accelerometer was 0.88±0.12 in the final test. There were no privacy issues for the patients. Battery life lasted an entire day with the final version, and readability and comprehensibility of text and colors were favorable.

4. What is the main point that readers should take away from this study?

By employing a user-centered design approach, a smartphone was found to be an adequate and feasible interface for an eHealth intervention for patients with COPD. The smartphone and application are easy to use by patients. The accuracy of physical activity measurement was good in the final test. The graphic design of the app was adjusted several times to better persuade patients to use the app and to provide a better understanding of the physical activity data, as well as to accommodate those with low technology literacy. User involvement is important when developing an eHealth intervention.

5. What was the most surprising finding from your study?

Privacy is not an issue when users are given control over their data distribution.

6. What are the next steps? How do you envision this work ultimately translating into clinical practice or affect R&D?

The final version of the eHealth intervention is presently being tested by our group for efficacy in a randomized controlled trial in COPD patients.

Researcher contributing Q&A:
Sigrid-VorrinkSigrid Vorrink is a human movement scientist working at the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences in the research group demand driven care, working on a PhD that has a focus on physical activity and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.