Best mobile apps for managing diabetes

May 13, 2015

When it comes to using plain language, clearly displaying content, and engaging users, paid mobile applications for managing diabetes are more useful than free ones, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When it comes to using plain language, clearly displaying content, and engaging users, paid mobile applications for managing diabetes are more useful than free ones, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The Washington University Institute for Public Health cosponsored it.

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Study authors concluded that paid apps were more likely than free apps to use strategies that engage people with low health literacy.

“One explanation for these differences is that with paid apps, perhaps more effort was undertaken to conduct formative research and usability testing before product launch,” study authors wrote. “Because low health literacy is more likely among people of low socioeconomic status, the cost of apps may be prohibitive for people with low health literacy. If these people are more likely to use free diabetes apps, then they are more likely to have apps that lack features that enhance usability and understanding.”

The study examined 110 apps. Almost 70% of the apps were free. Click here to view the characteristics of the free and paid apps. The apps that were not free (34) ranged in price from $0.99 to $29.99.

 

Most of the apps (73.7%) apps addressed diabetes management, while only 33.3% addressed prevention. A small percentage of the apps (10.5%) addressed diabetes screening, diagnosis, or symptoms. 

Study authors concluded that the paid apps were more user-friendly than the free ones. “Paid diabetes apps were significantly more likely to use common, everyday words (91.2% vs. 75.0%); avoid undefined technical or medical terms (85.3% vs. 65.8%),” study authors wrote.

The paid apps were also credited with doing a better job of organizing and simplifying navigation. “[Nearly 86%] of paid apps had a homepage, whereas 68.0% of free apps had one; 70.6% of paid apps had easy access to a menu page, whereas 52.0% of free apps had one. Paid apps were significantly more likely to include a “back” button (97.1% vs. 75.0%),” study authors wrote.