Can mHealth Improve Risk Assessment in Underserved Populations? Acceptability of a Breast Health Questionnaire App in Ethnically Diverse, Older, Low-Income Women

J Health Dispar Res Pract. 2014;7(4):6.


Background: Use of mobile health (mHealth) tools has expanded rapidly but little research has been done on its acceptability by low-income, diverse, older patient populations.

Objective: To assess the attitudes of a diverse group of underserved women on the acceptability and usability of mHealth tools in a clinical setting using a breast health questionnaire application (app) at a public hospital mammography clinic.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted in a breast-imaging center of an urban safety net institution from July-August 2012. Interviews included pre- and post-questions. Women completed the Athena breast health questionnaire app on an iPad and were asked about their experience and ways to improve the tool.

Results: Fifteen women age 45-79 years from diverse ethnic and educational backgrounds were interviewed. The majority of women, 11 of 15, preferred the Athena app over a paper version and all the women thought the app was easy to use. Two Spanish-speaking Latinas preferred paper; and two women, with limited mobile phone use, did not have a preference. Many women indicated that it would be necessary to have staff available for instruction and assistance if the app were to be implemented.

Conclusions: mHealth tools are an acceptable, if not preferred, method of collecting health information for diverse, older, low-income women. Further studies are required to evaluate the reliability and accuracy of data collection using mHealth tools in underserved populations. mHealth tools should be explored as a novel way to engage diverse populations to improve clinical care and bridge gaps in health disparities.

Keywords: breast cancer risk assessment; health disparities; mHealth.