Influence of patient characteristics and psychological needs on diabetes mobile app usability in adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes: Crossover randomized trial

Helen N.C. Fu, Terrence J. Adam, Joseph A. Konstan, Julian A. Wolfson, Thomas R Clancy, Jean F. Wyman

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19 Scopus citations


Background: More than 1100 diabetes mobile apps are available, but app usage by patients is low. App usability may be influenced by patient factors such as age, sex, and psychological needs. Objective: Guided by Self-Determination Theory, the purposes of this study were to (1) assess the effect of patient characteristics on app usability, and (2) determine whether patient characteristics and psychological needs (competence, autonomy, and connectivity)-important for motivation in diabetes care-are associated with app usability. Methods: Using a crossover randomized design, 92 adults with type 1 or 2 diabetes tested two Android apps (mySugr and OnTrack) for seven tasks including data entry, blood glucose (BG) reporting, and data sharing. We used multivariable linear regression models to examine associations between patient characteristics, psychological needs, user satisfaction, and user performance (task time, success, and accuracy). Results: Participants had a mean age of 54 (range 19-74) years, and were predominantly white (62%, 57/92), female (59%, 54/92), with type 2 diabetes (70%, 64/92), and had education beyond high school (67%, 61/92). Participants rated an overall user satisfaction score of 62 (SD 18), which is considered marginally acceptable. The satisfaction mean score for each app was 55 (SD 18) for mySugr and 68 (SD 15) for OnTrack. The mean task completion time for all seven tasks was 7 minutes, with a mean task success of 82% and an accuracy rate of 68%. Higher user satisfaction was observed for patients with less education (P=.04) and those reporting more competence (P=.02), autonomy (P=.006), or connectivity with a health care provider (P=.03). User performance was associated with age, sex, education, diabetes duration, and autonomy. Older patients required more time (95% CI 1.1-3.2) and had less successful task completion (95% CI 3.5-14.3%). Men needed more time (P=.01) and more technical support than women (P=.04). High school education or less was associated with lower task success (P=.003). Diabetes duration of ≥10 years was associated with lower task accuracy (P=.02). Patients who desired greater autonomy and were interested in learning their patterns of BG and carbohydrates had greater task success (P=.049). Conclusions: Diabetes app usability was associated with psychological needs that are important for motivation. To enhance patient motivation to use diabetes apps for self-management, clinicians should address competence, autonomy, and connectivity by teaching BG pattern recognition and lifestyle planning, customizing BG targets, and reviewing home-monitored data via email. App usability could be improved for older male users and those with less education and greater diabetes duration by tailoring app training and providing ongoing technical support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere11462
JournalJMIR Diabetes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing and Sigma Theta Tau International-Zeta Chapter.

Publisher Copyright:
© Helen NC Fu, Terrence J Adam, Joseph A Konstan, Julian A Wolfson, Thomas R Clancy, Jean F Wyman. Originally published in JMIR Diabetes (, 30.04.2019. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Diabetes, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.


  • Diabetes
  • MHealth
  • Mobile apps
  • Self-determination theory
  • Self-management
  • Usability
  • User satisfaction


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