Development and Usability Evaluation of an mHealth Application for Symptom Self-Management in Underserved Persons Living with HIV

Hwayoung Cho

Development and Usability Evaluation of an mHealth Application for Symptom Self-Management in Underserved Persons Living with HIV
Cho, Hwayoung
Thesis Advisor(s):
Schnall, Rebecca
Ph.D., Columbia University
Persistent URL:
Effective symptom management is essential to decrease symptom severity and improve health-related quality of life for persons living with HIV (PLWH). A mobile health (mHealth) application (app) has the potential to be an effective delivery mode of an existing paper-based symptom management manual with self-management strategies for underserved PLWH. The quality of the mHealth app requires a thorough understanding of the needs of the intended end-users and ensuring the app’s usability. The purpose of this study was to translate paper-based health information into an mHealth app for symptom self-management in underserved PLWH, entitled mVIP (mobile Video Information Provider), and assess its usability. To achieve this goal, usability was evaluated rigorously throughout the development process of mVIP. Based on a stratified view of health information technology (IT) usability evaluation framework, usability evaluation was sequentially conducted with the following three levels: 1) user-task, 2) user-task-system, and 3) user-task-system-environment. At level 1 (user-task), we applied a user-centered design method to guide the information architecture of mVIP. Using a reverse in-person card sorting technique, symptoms and self-management strategies from a paper-based HIV/AIDS symptom management manual were ranked. The rank order of the 13 symptoms and 151 self-management strategies determined the order of appearance to end-users of the mVIP app, with higher-ranked symptoms and strategies appearing first. Based on the findings, we developed a prototype of mVIP as following: 1) once users log in, they are guided by an avatar through a series of 13 symptom questions ascertaining the nature and severity of their symptoms, and 2) the avatar recommends three self-management strategies for each symptom reported. At level 2 (user-task-system), we conducted a usability evaluation of the mVIP prototype in a laboratory setting through end-user usability testing and heuristic evaluation. In end-user usability testing, we used an eye-tracking and retrospective think-aloud method to examine task performance by 20 PLWH. For the heuristic evaluation, five usability experts in informatics assessed the user interface. In the two usability evaluations conducted in a laboratory setting, we found strong user acceptance of the mVIP prototype while identifying a number of usability issues with this prototype. Based on the recommendations from the end-users and heuristic evaluators, we iteratively refined the app’s content, functionality, and interface. We then inserted videos of the finalized symptom self-management strategies into the refined mVIP prototype. At level 3 (user-task-system-environment), the usability of the refined mVIP prototype was evaluated in a real-world setting. Through 10 in-depth interviews and four focus groups conducted at the conclusion of a three-month randomized controlled trial, we explored in-depth understandings of users’ experiences, perceptions, and satisfaction of mVIP use. Findings from the study showed that first, mVIP is useful for HIV-related symptom self-management and has the potential for being used as a communication tool with healthcare providers; and second, mVIP is easy to use to monitor symptom experience over time. At the same time, participants suggested mVIP be more sensitively tailored based on years from initial diagnosis of HIV, an individuals’ age, and conditions. The overall user satisfaction with the mVIP prototype was high, which reflects strong user acceptance of mVIP. Integral to the findings from the three-level usability evaluation, we assessed the quality of the mVIP prototype in use and found the prototype was highly accepted by PLWH with high user satisfaction. This study will add to the body of literature on translation of evidence-based health information into an mHealth app and its usability assessment, which highlights the importance of the use of mobile technology for PLWH, specifically racial and ethnic minorities and those from low-socioeconomic groups who have limited health literacy and low level of education.
HIV-positive persons--Care
Self-care, Health
Medicine--Information technology
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Suggested Citation:
Hwayoung Cho, , Development and Usability Evaluation of an mHealth Application for Symptom Self-Management in Underserved Persons Living with HIV, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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