Mobile app development in health research: pitfalls and solutions

Mhealth. 2021 Apr 20;7:32. doi: 10.21037/mhealth-19-263. eCollection 2021.


Mobile app health research presents myriad opportunities to improve health, and simultaneously introduces a new set of challenges that are non-intuitive and extend beyond typical training received by researchers. Informed by our experiences with app development for health research, we discuss some of the most salient pitfalls when working with emerging technology as well as potential strategies to avoid or resolve these challenges. To address challenges at the project level, we suggest strategies that researchers can use to future-proof their research, such as using theory and involving those with app development expertise as part of a research team. At the structural level, we include a new model to characterize the relationship between technology- and research-timelines, and provide ideas regarding how to best address this challenge. Given that screen-based time now predominates our lived experiences, it is important that health researchers have the capacity and structural support to develop interventions that utilize these technologies, assess them rigorously, and ensure their timely and equitable dissemination.

Keywords: Health research; interventions; technology.

Publication types

  • Review