Background: Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is increasing worldwide and early education to improve adherence to self-management is a key strategy to slow CKD progression. The use of the internet and mobile phone technologies (mHealth) to support patients is considered an effective tool in many other chronic disease populations. While a number of mHealth platforms for CKD exist, few studies have investigated if and how this population use technology to engage in self-management.
Methods: Using a cross-sectional design across five health districts in Queensland (Australia), a 38-item self-report survey was distributed to adults with CKD attending outpatient clinics or dialysis units to measure current use and type of engagement with mHealth, perceived barriers to use, and opportunities to support CKD self-management. Odds ratio (OR) were calculated to identify associations between demographic characteristic and mHealth use.
Results: Of the 708 participants surveyed, the majority had computer access (89.2%) and owned a mobile phone (83.5%). The most likely users of the internet were those aged ≤ 60 years (OR: 7.35, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 4.25-12.75, p < 0.001), employed (OR: 7.67, 95% CI: 2.58-22.78, p < 0.001), from non-indigenous background (OR: 6.98, 95% CI: 3.50-13.93, p < 0.001), or having completed higher levels of education (OR: 3.69, CI: 2.38-5.73, p < 0.001). Those using a mobile phone for complex communication were also younger (OR: 6.01, 95% CI: 3.55-10.19, p < 0.001), more educated (OR: 1.99, 95% CI: 1.29-3.18, p < 0.01), or from non-indigenous background (OR: 3.22, 95% CI: 1.58-6.55, p < 0.001). Overall, less than 25% were aware of websites to obtain information about renal healthcare. The mHealth technologies most preferred for communication with their renal healthcare teams were by telephone (56.5%), internet (50%), email (48.3%) and text messages (46%).
Conclusion: In the CKD cohort, younger patients are more likely than older patients to use mHealth intensively and interactively although all patients' technology literacy ought to be thoroughly assessed by renal teams before implementing in practice. Further research testing mHealth interventions to improve self-management in a range of patient cohorts is warranted.
Keywords: Chronic kidney disease; E-health; End stage kidney disease; Internet; Mobile phone; Smart phone; Telehealth; mHealth.