Methods for evaluating the content, usability, and efficacy of commercial mobile health apps

Danielle E. Jake-Schoffman, Valerie J. Silfee, Molly E. Waring, Edwin D. Boudreaux, Rajani S. Sadasivam, Sean P. Mullen, Jennifer L. Carey, Rashelle B. Hayes, Eric Y. Ding, Gary G. Bennett, Sherry L. Pagoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Commercial mobile apps for health behavior change are flourishing in the marketplace, but little evidence exists to support their use. This paper summarizes methods for evaluating the content, usability, and efficacy of commercially available health apps. Content analyses can be used to compare app features with clinical guidelines, evidence-based protocols, and behavior change techniques. Usability testing can establish how well an app functions and serves its intended purpose for a target population. Observational studies can explore the association between use and clinical and behavioral outcomes. Finally, efficacy testing can establish whether a commercial app impacts an outcome of interest via a variety of study designs, including randomized trials, multiphase optimization studies, and N-of-1 studies. Evidence in all these forms would increase adoption of commercial apps in clinical practice, inform the development of the next generation of apps, and ultimately increase the impact of commercial apps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere190
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Behavioral medicine
  • Chronic disease
  • MHealth
  • Mobile applications
  • Mobile health
  • Telemedicine/methods
  • Treatment efficacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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