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Experience of diabetes self-management with mobile applications: a focus group study among older people with diabetes

Qing Ye, Suzanne A Boren, Uzma Khan, Eduardo J Simoes, Min Soon Kim


Background: The number of mobile diabetes self-management applications (apps) has risen. However, it is not certain whether these apps provide effective diabetes self-management for older people with diabetes. In this study, we aim to identify barriers in features and usability related to the needs of older people with diabetes for diabetes self-management applications.

Methods: We conducted focus groups with 10 older people with diabetes (mean age = 69 years old). Based on the data saturation theory, there were 2 focus groups. Participants completed a set of diabetes self-management tasks using 9 representative diabetes self-management applications on iPads. We collected information regarding demographics, diabetes history, health literacy and prior experience using mobile devices and diabetes self-management applications. We asked participants’ preferences, concerns and needs for diabetes self-management application features. The System Usability Scale (0-100) measured overall usability. Thematic analysis identified the barriers that older participants encountered as they interacted with the diabetes self-management applications.

Results: Participants found mobile applications inadequate for features on Healthy Coping and Problem Solving. The features that participants liked most for the diabetes self-management applications were documentation, information and goal setting. Thematic analysis revealed that usability was their primary concern about diabetes self-management applications in managing diabetes conditions. The average System Usability Scale score was 48 out of 100, which is considered not acceptable.

Conclusions: This study suggests current diabetes self-management applications do not provide evidence-based, usable features for diabetes self-management and may not fulfill the needs of older people with diabetes.


Diabetes, focus groups, health education, health literacy, mobile applications, mobile health technologies, patient-centered care, person-centered healthcare, self-management, technology acceptance

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