Mobile Health to Maintain Continuity of Patient-Centered Care for Chronic Kidney Disease: Content Analysis of Apps

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2018 Apr 20;6(4):e10173. doi: 10.2196/10173.


Background: Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a global health problem with a high economic burden, which is particularly prevalent in Taiwan. Mobile health apps have been widely used to maintain continuity of patient care for various chronic diseases. To slow the progression of CKD, continuity of care is vital for patients' self-management and cooperation with health care professionals. However, the literature provides a limited understanding of the use of mobile health apps to maintain continuity of patient-centered care for CKD.

Objective: This study identified apps related to the continuity of patient-centered care for CKD on the App Store, Google Play, and 360 Mobile Assistant, and explored the information and frequency of changes in these apps available to the public on different platforms. App functionalities, like patient self-management and patient management support for health care professionals, were also examined.

Methods: We used the CKD-related keywords "kidney," "renal," "nephro," "chronic kidney disease," "CKD," and "kidney disease" in traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, and English to search 3 app platforms: App Store, Google Play, and 360 Mobile Assistant. A total of 2 reviewers reached consensus on coding guidelines and coded the contents and functionalities of the apps through content analysis. After coding, Microsoft Office Excel 2016 was used to calculate Cohen kappa coefficients and analyze the contents and functionalities of the apps.

Results: A total of 177 apps related to patient-centered care for CKD in any language were included. On the basis of their functionality and content, 67 apps were recommended for patients. Among them, the most common functionalities were CKD information and CKD self-management (38/67, 57%), e-consultation (17/67, 25%), CKD nutrition education (16/67, 24%), and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) calculators (13/67, 19%). In addition, 67 apps were recommended for health care professionals. The most common functionalities of these apps were comprehensive clinical calculators (including eGFR; 30/67; 45%), CKD medical professional information (16/67, 24%), stand-alone eGFR calculators (14/67, 21%), and CKD clinical decision support (14/67, 21%). A total of 43 apps with single- or multiple-indicator calculators were found to be suitable for health care professionals and patients. The aspects of patient care apps intended to support self-management of CKD patients were encouraging patients to actively participate in health care (92/110, 83.6%), recognizing and effectively responding to symptoms (56/110, 50.9%), and disease-specific knowledge (53/110, 48.2%). Only 13 apps contained consulting management functions, patient management functions or teleconsultation functions designed to support health care professionals in CKD patient management.

Conclusions: This study revealed that the continuity of patient-centered care for CKD provided by mobile health apps is inadequate for both CKD self-management by patients and patient care support for health care professionals. More comprehensive solutions are required to enhance the continuity of patient-centered care for CKD.

Keywords: chronic kidney diseases; continuity of patient care; mobile apps; patient-centered care; self-management.