Measuring the Usability of eHealth Solutions for Patients With Parkinson Disease: Observational Study

JMIR Form Res. 2022 Oct 25;6(10):e39954. doi: 10.2196/39954.


Background: Parkinson disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder with a variety of motor and nonmotor symptoms. Many of these symptoms can be monitored by eHealth solutions, including smartphone apps, wearable sensors, and camera systems. The usability of such systems is a key factor in long-term use, but not much is known about the predictors of successful use and preferable methods to assess usability in patients with PD.

Objective: This study tested methods to assess usability and determined prerequisites for successful use in patients with PD.

Methods: We performed comprehensive usability assessments with 18 patients with PD using a mixed methods usability battery containing the System Usability Scale, a rater-based evaluation of device-specific tasks, and qualitative interviews. Each patient performed the usability battery with 2 of 3 randomly assigned devices: a tablet app, wearable sensors, and a camera system. The usability battery was administered at the beginning and at the end of a 4-day testing period. Between usability batteries, the systems were used by the patients during 3 sessions of motor assessments (wearable sensors and camera system) and at the movement disorder ward (tablet app).

Results: In this study, the rater-based evaluation of tasks discriminated the best between the 3 eHealth solutions, whereas subjective modalities such as the System Usability Scale were not able to distinguish between the systems. Successful use was associated with different clinical characteristics for each system: eHealth literacy and cognitive function predicted successful use of the tablet app, and better motor function and lower age correlated with the independent use of the camera system. The successful use of the wearable sensors was independent of clinical characteristics. Unfortunately, patients who were not able to use the devices well provided few improvement suggestions in qualitative interviews.

Conclusions: eHealth solutions should be developed with a specific set of patients in mind and subsequently tested in this cohort. For a complete picture, usability assessments should include a rater-based evaluation of task performance, and there is a need to develop strategies to circumvent the underrepresentation of poorly performing patients in qualitative usability research.

Keywords: Parkinson disease; aging; digital solution; eHealth; eHealth solution; mobile health; neurodegenerative disease; older adults; older population; system usability; telehealth and telemonitoring; usability; wearable sensor.