To get a behind-the-scenes look into the study, Kidney News Online interviewed Karandeep Singh, MD, MMSc, first author on the study and Assistant Professor in the Departments of Learning Health Sciences and Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.
How would you briefly describe the findings of this study?
This study is a first step towards understanding the marketplace of patient-facing apps on the app store to support patients’ self-management of chronic kidney disease. We found that patients’ and physicians’ evaluations of app quality were not correlated. We found a number of apps that were rated highly by patients but not by nephrologists, suggesting that the two groups may have different priorities when they decide which apps are useful. If nephrology professional groups are going to recommend apps for patients to use for specific aspects of their care, they should strongly consider seeking patient input because patients have a unique perspective about app quality.
What do you believe is the importance of the findings?
We were surprised to note that patient ratings of app quality did not correlate with star ratings on the app store, although this finding may be limited due the small number of apps that we evaluated along with the fact that many of the apps we identified had no app store ratings. We were also surprised to find that the majority of apps were developed by individuals as opposed to organizations such as medical professional groups or patient advocacy groups.
Do you believe there should be any further studies into the validity of smartphone self-care apps? Is your team planning any such continuations?
Our research was limited by a small sample size of apps and given the rapid turnover of apps on the app store, we found that many of the apps we evaluated are no longer on the marketplace. This suggests that the study of apps is going to be a moving target and will require periodic re-evaluation. We also limited our study to apps explicitly targeting patients with chronic kidney disease. However, we know that the patients may use a variety of other apps to help with self-management. Finding out which apps chronic kidney disease patients are using would be an important next step to understand the role of apps in chronic kidney disease.
What do you think the future holds for smartphone or other technological self-care for CKD patients?
As Mr. Rogers and Drs. Topf and Hiremath point out in their respective editorials, apps promoting self-care need to provide value to patients while not making patients feel like patients. The apps we use regularly on our phones are those that give us joy and connect us to the world. Apps focused on self-care may never have the same reach as apps we use for enjoyment, but CKD app developers can learn valuable lessons in engaging people from popular apps like Twitter and Facebook.
If you have any further questions on this study or the broader topic, please contact Kidney News Online at firstname.lastname@example.org.