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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Paid Apps Beat Free Apps on Health Literacy

Paid mobile apps for diabetes were more likely than free apps to use strategies to make them more understandable and useful for people with low health literacy, according to research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

[Photo: Dr. Charlene Caburnay]

Researchers studied a sample of 110 diabetes-related apps and analyzed them based on strategies for improving health literacy suggested at a 2013 Institute of Medicine Roundtable. They found that paid apps were more likely than free apps to use common everyday words; display content clearly; and provide access to organizational tools like home pages and menus.

“One explanation for these differences is that with paid apps, perhaps more effort was undertaken to conduct formative research and usability testing before product launch,” wrote lead author Dr. Charlene Caburnay, research assistant professor at the Brown School. She noted that people with low health literacy are often those least likely to use health information technology like apps and less likely to be able to afford to pay for them.

“Encouraging a development process for free diabetes-related apps to make them more user-friendly and accessible to diverse audiences could increase their use and understandability,” she wrote.

The study was published May 7 in Preventing Chronic Disease.

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