Usability of Mobile Health Apps for Postoperative Care: Systematic Review

Background: Mobile health (mHealth) apps are increasingly used postoperatively to monitor, educate, and rehabilitate. The usability of mHealth apps is critical to their implementation.

Objective: This systematic review evaluates the (1) methodology of usability analyses, (2) domains of usability being assessed, and (3) results of usability analyses.

Methods: The A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews checklist was consulted. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses reporting guideline was adhered to. Screening was undertaken by 2 independent reviewers. All included studies were assessed for risk of bias. Domains of usability were compared with the gold-standard mHealth App Usability Questionnaire (MAUQ).

Results: A total of 33 of 720 identified studies were included for data extraction. Of the 5 included randomized controlled trials (RCTs), usability was never the primary end point. Methodology of usability analyses included interview (10/33), self-created questionnaire (18/33), and validated questionnaire (9/33). Of the 3 domains of usability proposed in the MAUQ, satisfaction was assessed in 28 of the 33 studies, system information arrangement was assessed in 11 of the 33 studies, and usefulness was assessed in 18 of the 33 studies. Usability of mHealth apps was above industry average, with median System Usability Scale scores ranging from 76 to 95 out of 100.

Conclusions: Current analyses of mHealth app usability are substandard. RCTs are rare, and validated questionnaires are infrequently consulted. Of the 3 domains of usability, only satisfaction is regularly assessed. There is significant bias throughout the literature, particularly with regards to conflicts of interest. Future studies should adhere to the MAUQ to assess usability and improve the utility of mHealth apps.