Symptom Tracking Apps Fall Short of Expectations for Heart Failure Patients

Heart failure-related apps that monitor symptoms fall short of expectations.

Because hospitalization for heart failure-related symptoms are common, disease management is key. Self-reporting mobile health (mHealth) applications for conditions such as heart failure generally do not meet the quality, content, or functionality criteria outlined in a recent study.

Researchers reviewed mHealth apps from Apple, Google, and Amazon app stores, and searched for terms related to heart failure, according to the study published by JMIR mHealth and uHealth. The apps that met the researchers’ initial criteria were downloaded and analyzed.

Reviewers rated the apps according to the Mobile Application Rating Scale (MARS), the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics functionality scoring system, and adherence to Heart Failure Society of America’s recommended guidelines. The quality of the app was analyzed in regard to engagement, functionality, aesthetics, and information quality, and was rated on a 5-point Likert scale.

MARS functionality score and the IMS Institute functionality score were both used since they provide different types of information. Out of 34 relevant apps, 91% were free, but the others could cost up to $4.99. On average, consumer reviews rated the apps 3 out of 5.

The reviewers in the study rated Heart Failure Health Stroylines, Symple, ContinuousCare Health App, WebMD, and AskMD the highest. However, only 3 of these apps have been analyzed and published in peer-review journals, the study noted.

Researchers found that even though it is important for patients with heart failure to have symptom management and self-monitoring tools, most of the apps analyzed were not designed for chronic disease management. These apps were also found to lack self-care management options, such as advanced symptom monitoring, tracking, and evaluation of specific behaviors in relation to health outcomes, the researchers wrote.

The study concluded that even though mHealth apps have the potential to be cost-effective and promote patient engagement, much work is needed to increase the options for successful symptom management.