Zachary Hearns, Philip V Chan, Sandy Sallam, R William Soller*


*This research was conducted while all authors were affiliated as faculty (Dr. Chan and Dr. Soller) and pharmacy students (Z. Hearns and S. Sallam) at the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy. Dr. Chan precepted Dr. Hearns on this project and both are principal authors


The patient-oriented mobile health (mHealth) application (app) sector has grown quickly in recent years, with over 97,000 in 62 app stores. However, there is limited understanding of healthcare provider awareness of mHealth app use for diabetes self-care, preferences regarding diabetes mHealth app features, or perspectives on FDA regulation of mHealth apps for diabetes self-care.

An online survey of licensed health professionals and healthcare students concerning use of mHealth apps for diabetes self-care was conducted in January to February, 2013. Healthcare provider respondents had to have worked with diabetes patients within 12 months prior to taking the survey.

Of 519 completed surveys, 47% were completed by licensed providers; 53% by healthcare students from schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy. Over 90% of respondents owned smartphones; 28% reported using a mHealth app within the last six months; yet only 4% recommended a mHealth app to a patient for diabetes self-care. Of those not making recommendations, 44% acknowledged limited knowledge about diabetes self-care mHealth apps; 8% professional liability concerns; 39% both limited knowledge and liability concerns; and 9% miscellaneous reasons. Most (59%) expressed concerns for diabetes self-care mHealth apps in supporting safe and effective care of diabetes patients and favored FDA regulation of diabetes self-care mHealth app attributes relating to software error, human error rate, and understandability. Among healthcare providers, 62% of providers and only 10% of healthcare students favored regulating efficacy of mHealth app for diabetes self-care.

Few surveyed healthcare providers and students reported recommending mHealth apps for diabetes self-care. The high level of provider concern, and uncertainties about diabetes mHealth app safety, support more regulatory oversight in addition to more diabetes mHealth app outcomes research.

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