Article Abstract

A human centered approach to design a diet app for patients with metabolic syndrome

Authors: Ashish Joshi, Chioma Amadi, Harleigh Schumer, Leah Galitzdorfer, Ann Gaba

Abstract

Background: The objective of this study was to utilize a human-centered approach in designing a diet app that would assist in management of patients with metabolic syndrome.
Methods: A convenience sample of 10 dietetic interns (DIs) who were attending their informatics rotation at the City University of New York School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY GSPHHP) were recruited during October 2017. The study was conducted in two phases. In phase 1, the DIs received a tutorial on the use of human-centered approach in designing mobile health applications. In phase 2, the DIs were provided a case study for which they designed an app for patients to manage metabolic syndrome using a human centered approach. The goal of phase 2 was to identify the features that were believed to be most important when designing this metabolic syndrome app. An initial questionnaire was administered to the DIs to gather information on their socio-demographics, prior training in nutrition, smart phone usage, perceptions about food logs, and calorie intake calculations. Subsequent questionnaires gathered information from the DIs on their preferred diet app components, app features, rankings of the features, and mock representations of the diet app with the selected features.
Results: The DIs were enrolled in the supervised practice component of their training to be Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs). Fifty percent of them had previously worked in a nutrition-related field. One-third of them were currently using a nutrition app. The top five features of the proposed diet app which the DIs identified as very important included (I) personalization of the app based on user preferences (80%, n=8); (II) disease specific education tips (90%, n=9); (III) ability to track progress (80%; n=8); (IV) reminders (70%, n=7) and (V) reinforcement based on user feedback (50%, n=5). In translating the identified features into functional requirements, majority of the DIs felt that the five key features identified should incorporate the following components: (I) personalization of the app should comprise information on medical factors, personal information, personal preferences, and recording weights; (II) disease specific educational tips should comprise information on food selections, low sodium options, and recipes for diabetes; (III) tracking progress should comprise features for storing audio files, viewing previous logs and uploading photos into a library; (IV) reminders should comprise daily messages to the users from the app; and (V) reinforcement should comprise provisions to enter motivational messages.
Conclusions: Our study lends support to the need for utilizing human-centered design (HCD) approaches in developing e-health dietary apps as well other non-diet related apps. App developers are encouraged to incorporate user characteristics, needs and preferences using a HCD framework that will allow for reproducibility, tailoring, user satisfaction, and effectiveness assessments.