Kelley Connor, associate professor for the School of Nursing, has recently won two nursing research awards, the De Sousa Award of Excellence for Dissertation Research and the Ruth O. McKibben Research Award, both from the University of Kansas Medical Center, for her PhD dissertation research project, “Perinatal mHealth apps: An evaluation of content and the perceptions of women who use them.”
For this project, Connor evaluated available health applications (mHealth apps) that offered perinatal health information to determine the extent to which these applications are usable and desirable for women who seek information about childbearing. She conducted this qualitative study by interviewing 16 women who were either pregnant or in the postpartum period that had used mHealth applications. Participants were interviewed on how they perceived and used the mobile applications for information regarding pregnancy. Following the interviews, participants were asked to find specific information while using a think-aloud process.
During a pregnancy, a woman must have knowledge of several different topics, such as nutrition during pregnancy, fetal development, health behaviors, signs of preterm labor, and when to call the maternity care provider. Because many different educational topics may be presented during any one healthcare visit, a woman may experience cognitive overload and may not be able to retain the information provided. mHealth apps may be useful to supplement the education provided during these appointments. They provide small amounts of information on a regular basis to promote learning and prevent cognitive overload for women who choose to use them during pregnancy.
Results from Connor’s study showed that participants felt supported when using the mHealth apps because the information was personalized and they could use the applications to share certain information about their pregnancy with family. Connor also found that some women perceived that the mHealth apps have limitations due to the woman feeling disconnected from the information they receive, because some providers and families do not support the use of the apps as they have concerns about security within the apps.
Connor concluded that mHealth apps can be useful educational tools and providers can support women by recommending select applications for use. Additionally, because there is minimal oversight from the app distribution platforms or health care organizations regarding the development and use of educational mHealth apps, a system to certify or verify mHealth apps should be developed.