Barriers and Facilitators to the Adoption of Mobile Health Among Health Care Professionals From the United Kingdom: Discrete Choice Experiment

Published in: JMIR mHealth uHealth

Despite the increasing availability of mobile health services, clinical engagement and use of health-apps remains minimal. This study aimed to identify and prioritise barriers to and drivers of health app use among health care professionals (HCPs) from the United Kingdom.

A discrete choice experiment was conducted with 222 HCPs using a web-based survey between March 2019 and June 2019. Participants were recruited to take part via social media and asked to choose their preferred option of 2 hypothetical health apps to prescribe to a hypothetical patient or to prescribe neither.

Hypothetical health-apps were characterized by differing levels of patient age, cost, published evidence bases, whether they had a National Health Service (NHS) stamp of approval, personal familiarity with the technology, and whether they were recommended by a fellow HCP. These were all reported as important factors in deciding whether HCPs are likely to prescribe a DHT, based on our pilot study published in the Lancet digital health.

We received 230 responses from UK-based HCPs, a total of 96.5% (n=222/230) of respondents understood the survey task and passed the test of rationality. 62.6% (n=139/222) of the health care providers responding to the survey had previously recommended the use of health apps to patients. Health apps were most likely to be prescribed to patients if they had an NHS stamp of approval or if they were recommended by another HCP (both P<.001). Published studies detailing clinical effectiveness were important (P<.001), but it would take five published studies to have the same impact on prescribing behavior as an NHS stamp of approval and two studies to be as convincing as having used the technology personally.

Increasing patient age and costs resulted in significant reductions in digital health prescribing (P<.001), none more so than among allied health professionals. Willingness-to-pay for health apps increased by £124.61 (US $151.14) if an NHS stamp of approval was present and by £29.20 (US $35.42) for each published study.

Overall, 8.1% (n=18/222) of respondents were reluctant to use health apps, always choosing the I would prescribe neither option, particularly among older HCPs, nurses, and those who do not use health apps personally.

The results of this study suggest that an NHS stamp of approval, published studies, and recommendations from fellow HCPs are significant facilitators of digital prescribing, whereas increasing costs and patient age are significant barriers to engagement. These findings suggest that demonstrating assurances of health apps and supporting both the dissemination and peer-to-peer recommendation of evidence-based technologies are critical if the NHS is to achieve its long-term digital transformation ambitions.


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