Tips for selecting a mobile health application to support your health goals

Apr 29, 2020 | Ellen Bissonette, RN, CBN | @ecb

Smart watch with man running

Written by Rose Prissel, a Mayo Clinic registered dietitian

Monitoring tools, such as online or app-based tools, smart watches and fitness trackers, can help maintain your weight and keep your activity goals on track. Using these devices along with an on-site, face-to-face weight loss program may have a synergistic effect on behavior change.

Users have noted availability, flexibility, ease of use, cost and time-effectiveness as benefits of using mobile health applications. The tips below can help you find the best application for your unique needs.

  1. What are your goals?

 Apps and devices are tools to supplement what you do offline. Therefore, it is important to identify what you need to do to achieve your weight loss goals. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this app help me achieve my goal(s)?
  • What type of feedback is most meaningful?
  1. Your research.

Once you have identified your goals, check out several apps before committing to one to determine which one provides the data and features to support your goals.

  1. Consider the accuracy and data management.

 Currently little quality control or regulations exist to ensure health apps are accurate in content, evidence-based or effective. This makes it important to ensure you do your research. This includes:

  • Determining if the app compatible with your smartphone (if it is on your phone's app store, it probably is) and computer devices.

- Checking the data privacy statement for the device and associate apps.

- Reviewing the app’s description, features, functionality, usability, user ratings and reviews.

- Determining if the developers consulted health professionals for the development of the app.  This will improve the probability of accurate content such as the use of nutritional databases from a reliable source.

- Verifying if the app or device clearly labels food items entered by other users.

  1. Determine if the app supports evidence-based strategies for weight loss

 Choose an app that uses one or more of the evidence-based strategies listed below. This increases the likelihood that it will effectively support you in making health changes.

  • Self-monitoring
  • Goal-setting with customization
  • Accountability, such as social support, daily reminders that pop up on your phone and personalized feedback
  • Motivational strategies, such as cues or push notifications, rewards or gamified design
  • Physical activity or healthy eating support, such as education

Connect with others talking about health fitness apps in the Healthy Living support group.

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