Mobile Apps for the Care Management of Chronic Kidney and End-Stage Renal Diseases: Systematic Search in App Stores and Evaluation

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2019 Sep 4;7(9):e12604. doi: 10.2196/12604.


Background: Numerous free and low-cost mobile apps for the care management of kidney disease have become available in recent years. Although these appear to be promising tools, they have not been evaluated comparatively based on standard mobile app metrics, and thus, limited evidence is available regarding their efficacy. This study systematically cataloged and assessed mobile apps designed to assist medication compliance and nutrition tracking that are useful to the chronic kidney disease (CKD) and the end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients who are on dialysis.

Objective: The objective of this study was to comprehensively evaluate mobile apps used for medication compliance and nutrition tracking for possible use by CKD and ESRD patients.

Methods: A systematic review framework was applied to the search, screening, and assessment of apps identified and downloaded from the iOS and Android app stores. We selected apps using 13 relevant search terms, narrowed down based on a set of inclusion and exclusion criteria, and then used the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS), a widely adopted app evaluation tool to assess the effectiveness of apps. The internal consistency and interrater reliability were tested using Cronbach alpha and interclass correlation coefficients (ICCs), respectively.

Results: The MARS total score had excellent internal consistency (Cronbach alpha=.90) and a moderate level of interrater reliability (2-way mixed ICC 0.65). Overall, 11 out of the 12 reviewed apps met the minimum acceptable score of 3.0 in MARS rating. The 3 apps with the highest combined scores were My Kidneys, My Health Handbook (MARS=4.68); My Food Coach (MARS=4.48); and National Kidney Foundation Malaysia (MARS=4.20). The study identified 2 general weaknesses in the existing apps: the apps fell short of accommodating advanced interactive features such as providing motivational feedback and promoting family member and caregiver participations in the app utilization.

Conclusions: The MARS rating system performed well in the app evaluation. The 3 highest ranked apps scored consistently high across the 5 dimensions specified in MARS. These apps were developed in collaboration with reputable organizations and field experts, demonstrating the importance of expert guidance in developing medical apps.

Keywords: Mobile App Rating Scale; digital health; kidney patient; mhealth; mobile apps; nutrition tracking; systematic assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Information Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / psychology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Mobile Applications / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mobile Applications / trends
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / psychology
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / therapy*