To assess adolescents' preferred mobile app features and to propose a framework for evaluating health-related mobile apps for adolescents.
PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, ERIC, HealthIT.gov, and ClinicalTrials.gov were systematically searched in August 2017. Studies pertaining to app development, feasibility, or usability that reported preferred app features and rating criteria on mHealth (mobile health) apps intended for adolescents were included. Quality assessment was performed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool. Qualitative synthesis was performed to develop themes reflecting best practices for evaluating the quality of mHealth apps for adolescents. Using a grounded theory approach, we constructed a theoretical framework of rating criteria that can be used to inform development of an evaluation tool for mHealth apps targeted to adolescents.
Thirteen articles were included. Most commonly preferred features include ability to track test results or self-management progress, connect to social media, and gain points or prizes through app gamification. Common rating criteria include degree of app customizability, ease of use, visual appeal, and interactivity. Five emerging dimensions were used in the theoretical framework: Technical Quality; Engagement; Support System; Autonomy; and Safety, Privacy, and Trust.
We found that adolescents prefer mHealth apps that are customizable, offer peer support through social media, sustain engagement via gamification, and support the ability to visualize health trends via simplified graphs. Findings may help in the development of mHealth apps that are preferred by adolescents, as well as the development of a quality evaluation tool for mHealth apps targeted to this population.