Background: Historically, inattention to population health and equity has fueled disparities. Mobile Health (mHealth) approaches have been shown to improve health skills and outcomes. The feasibility and acceptability of using mHealth within integrated primary care are seldom explored in the realm of routine clinical care. This study was conducted to expand the reach of integrated health services, using mHealth interventions.
Objectives: The objectives of this study were to (a) further test the feasibility of using mHealth to augment primary care services, (b) solicit feedback from patients and providers to guide implementation, and (c) update our current system-wide mHealth toolkit.
Methods: Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) is a safety-net healthcare system that serves approximately 150,000 ethnically and socioeconomically diverse patients. The current study was conducted between July and December 2020 and comprised a four-fold process: (1) Literature review of current mHealth offerings, (2) Systematic evaluation of mHealth apps, (3) Development of a mHealth toolkit with stakeholder involvement, and (4) Conducting initial pilot at primary care locations.
Results: A literature review resulted in N = 53 mHealth apps. The evaluation of mHealth apps resulted in N =15 apps that met criteria for credibility, accessibility, safety, and user-friendliness. CHA integrated primary care providers completed a survey, resulting in N = 37 completed surveys. 33 (89%) providers downloaded and used the app with patients during the appointment. 34 (92%) providers believed apps were easy to use and introduce. 31 (84%) patients used mHealth apps more than once after the initial introduction. The final mHealth toolkit resulted in N = 13 applications that target a range of linguistic needs, conditions, and age groups.
Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate the feasibility and acceptability of using mHealth apps as an adjunctive tool to clinical practice. With their low cost, availability, and easy-to-use interface, routine clinical use of mHealth apps have implications for improving patient’s health capital (e.g., self-monitoring, self-knowledge), well-being, and health promotion.