A fall risk mhealth app for older adults: Development and usability study

Katherine L. Hsieh, Jason T. Fanning, Wendy A. Rogers, Tyler A. Wood, Jacob J. Sosnoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults. Due to various constraints, objective fall risk screening is seldom performed in clinical settings. Smartphones offer a high potential to provide fall risk screening for older adults in home settings. However, there is limited understanding of whether smartphone technology for falls screening is usable by older adults who present age-related changes in perceptual, cognitive, and motor capabilities. Objective: The aims of this study were to develop a fall risk mobile health (mHealth) app and to determine the usability of the fall risk app in healthy, older adults. Methods: A fall risk app was developed that consists of a health history questionnaire and 5 progressively challenging mobility tasks to measure individual fall risk. An iterative design-evaluation process of semistructured interviews was performed to determine the usability of the app on a smartphone and tablet. Participants also completed a Systematic Usability Scale (SUS). In the first round of interviews, 6 older adults participated, and in the second round, 5 older adults participated. Interviews were videotaped and transcribed, and the data were coded to create themes. Average SUS scores were calculated for the smartphone and tablet. Results: There were 2 themes identified from the first round of interviews, related to perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness. While instructions for the balance tasks were difficult to understand, participants found it beneficial to learn about their risk for falls, found the app easy to follow, and reported confidence in using the app on their own. Modifications were made to the app, and following the second round of interviews, participants reported high ease of use and usefulness in learning about their risk of falling. Few differences were reported between using a smartphone or tablet. Average SUS scores ranged from 79 to 84. Conclusions: Our fall risk app was found to be highly usable by older adults as reported from interviews and high scores on the SUS. When designing a mHealth app for older adults, developers should include clear and simple instructions and preventative strategies to improve health. Furthermore, if the design accommodates for age-related sensory changes, smartphones can be as effective as tablets. A mobile app to assess fall risk has the potential to be used in home settings by older adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11569
JournalJMIR Aging
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Fall risk
  • MHealth app
  • Mobile phone
  • Usability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Gerontology
  • Health Informatics
  • Health(social science)


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