A Novel Food Record App for Dietary Assessments Among Older Adults With Type 2 Diabetes: Development and Usability Study

JMIR Form Res. 2021 Feb 17;5(2):e14760. doi: 10.2196/14760.


Background: More than 1 in 4 people in the United States aged 65 years and older have type 2 diabetes. For diabetes care, medical nutrition therapy is recommended as a clinically effective intervention. Previous researchers have developed and validated dietary assessment methods using images of food items to improve the accuracy of self-reporting over traditional methods. Nevertheless, little is known about the usability of image-assisted dietary assessment methods for older adults with diabetes.

Objective: The aims of this study were (1) to create a food record app for dietary assessments (FRADA) that would support image-assisted dietary assessments, and (2) to evaluate the usability of FRADA for older adults with diabetes.

Methods: For the development of FRADA, we identified design principles that address the needs of older adults and implemented three fundamental tasks required for image-assisted dietary assessments: capturing, viewing, and transmitting images of food based on the design principles. For the usability assessment of FRADA, older adults aged 65 to 80 years (11 females and 3 males) were assigned to interact with FRADA in a lab-based setting. Participants' opinions of FRADA and its usability were determined by a follow-up survey and interview. As an evaluation indicator of usability, the responses to the survey, including an after-scenario questionnaire, were analyzed. Qualitative data from the interviews confirmed the responses to the survey.

Results: We developed a smartphone app that enables older adults with diabetes to capture, view, and transmit images of food items they consumed. The findings of this study showed that FRADA and its instructions for capturing, viewing, and transmitting images of food items were usable for older adults with diabetes. The survey showed that participants found FRADA easy to use and would consider using FRADA daily. The analysis of the qualitative data from interviews revealed multiple categories, such as the usability of FRADA, potential benefits of using FRADA, potential features to be added to FRADA, and concerns of older adults with diabetes regarding interactions with FRADA.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates in a lab-based setting not only the usability of FRADA by older adults with diabetes but also potential opportunities using FRADA in real-world settings. The findings suggest implications for creating a smartphone app for an image-assisted dietary assessment. Future work still remains to evaluate the feasibility and validity of FRADA with multiple stakeholders, including older adults with diabetes and dietitians.

Keywords: diabetes; dietary assessment; mobile health; older adults; smartphone app; usability test.