Comparison of evaluation methods for improving the usability of a Spanish mHealth tool

Int J Med Inform. 2024 Apr:184:105355. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2024.105355. Epub 2024 Feb 12.


Objective: Mobile health (mHealth) technology is now widely used across health conditions and populations. The rigorous development of these tools has yielded improved health outcomes, yet the ideal approach for developing mHealth tools continues to evolve, indicating the need for rigorous usability evaluation methods. This study compares two usability evaluation methods - cognitive interviews and usability assessments employing a think-aloud approach - for adapting an evidence-based mHealth tool from English into Spanish.

Methods: We conducted cognitive interviews and usability assessments using a think-aloud protocol to evaluate the usability of an HIV mHealth application among 40 Spanish-speaking adults with HIV in New York City, NY, and La Romana, Dominican Republic. The Health IT Usability Evaluation Model (Health-ITUEM) was used to guide the analysis of qualitative data collected from each method.

Results: Participants (N = 40) averaged 43 years old (SD = 12.26; range 20-79), identified primarily Hispanic/Latino (92.5 %), and resided in La Romana (50 %) or New York City (50 %). Both usability evaluation methods yielded similar findings, highlighting learnability and information needs as crucial components of participant feedback for the mHealth application. Cognitive interviews captured participants' perspectives on the app's interface and design. On the other hand, results from usability assessments offered insights into participants' competency while interacting with the mHealth tool.

Conclusion: Findings from this study highlight the contributions and limitations of including cognitive interviews and task-based usability assessments using a think-aloud approach in mHealth usability testing. Future research should employ a multi-method approach, incorporating complementary usability evaluation methods and engaging participants in multiple assessments. Using complementary usability evaluation methods may provide a more comprehensive understanding of the usability and participant experience aspects of a mHealth tool compared to using a single usability evaluation method.

Keywords: Cognitive Interviews; Think aloud; Usability; Usability evaluation methods; mHealth.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Data Accuracy
  • HIV Infections*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Telemedicine* / methods
  • Young Adult