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Exploring the usability and design of medication management apps with older Canadians
Upper Lobby
Exploring the usability and design of medication management apps with older Canadians
Assistant Professor, University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy
BackgroundMany older individuals need to take multiple medications, see multiple heath professionals and visit multiple health settings over the course of their care. To minimize errors and adverse events,... Read more

Description

Background

Many older individuals need to take multiple medications, see multiple heath professionals and visit multiple health settings over the course of their care. To minimize errors and adverse events, patients are often encouraged to fill prescriptions at a single pharmacy and carry a list of medications, but it can be difficult to maintain accurate and complete records. Many patients also need additional information or reminders to adhere to prescribed treatments. The purpose of our study was to explore the usability and utility of a selection of mobile medication management apps for older Canadians.

Methods

We facilitated group usability sessions with individuals aged 50+ who were managing at least one chronic medication for him/herself or a family member. We recruited purposive and theoretical samples of participants through community centres and clinics. We did not require any prior experience using touchscreen devices. Each 2-hour session included 3-5 participants, each using an iPad pre-loaded with four medication management apps: MyMedRec for its simple interface; Pillboxie for its visual medicine cabinet; DrugHub for its library of drug information; and PocketPharmacist for its medication interaction feature.

At the start of each session, we gathered demographic and computer literacy information. We then observed participants completing app-specific tasks such as entering medications, setting reminders, emailing profiles and checking for drug interactions. Participants were asked to rate the difficulty of each app, provide feedback and complete a Systems Usability Scale. At the end of each session we asked the group to reflect on their experiences. We recorded and transcribed the reflection and analyzed data using a grounded theory approach.

Results

Over 4 focus groups (to date), 13 women and 3 men aged 56-76 participated. Most had never used a touchscreen device. For participants, medication management meant taking the right medications at the right dose and the right time, remembering to take/having taken doses and checking for adverse reactions and drug interactions. They saw a need for medication apps with clean and obvious design features such as large buttons/text, linear data entry and colour coding. An ideal app would have a simple interface with a drug library and a medication interaction feature. Most participants were surprised by the low cost of the apps (all <$1.99) and expected prices more similar to computer software ($25-200). While none of the apps allowed users to sync with a computer, cloud server or electronic medical record, most participants assumed connectivity was a feature and felt strongly that they needed a way to preserve their data in the event of device damage or loss. While many participants felt physicians and pharmacists should recommend the best apps, they would also want technical support from their health professionals.

Conclusion

Older individuals see great value in medication management apps but the apps need to be designed with older users in mind. Older users appreciate clear design, access to drug information and the ability to back-up and share their profiles. Future apps should be designed together with older patients to improve usability.

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