Influences on the uptake of health and wellbeing apps and curated app portals: a think aloud and interview study

Dorothy Szinay, Olga Perski, Andy Jones, Tim Chadborn, Jamie Brown, Felix Naughton

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15 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Health and well-being smartphone apps can provide a cost-effective solution to addressing unhealthy behaviors. The selection of these apps tends to occur in commercial app stores, where thousands of health apps are available. Their uptake is often influenced by popularity indicators. However, these indicators are not necessarily associated with app effectiveness or evidence-based content. Alternative routes to app selection are increasingly available, such as via curated app portals, but little is known about people’s experiences of them.

Objective: The aim of this study is to explore how people select health apps on the internet and their views on curated app portals.

Methods: A total of 18 UK-based adults were recruited through social media and asked during an in-person meeting to verbalize their thoughts while searching for a health or well-being app on the internet on a platform of their choice. The search was then repeated on 2 curated health app portals: the National Health Service Apps Library and the Public Health England One You App portal. This was followed by semistructured interviews. Data were analyzed using framework analysis, informed by the Capability, Opportunity, Motivation-Behavior model and the Theoretical Domains Framework.

Results: Searching for health and well-being apps on the internet was described as a minefield. App uptake appeared to be influenced by participants’ capabilities such as app literacy skills and health and app awareness, and opportunities including the availability of apps, app esthetics, the price of an app, and social influences. Motivation factors that seemed to affect the uptake were perceived competence, time efficiency, perceived utility and accuracy of an app, transparency about data protection, commitment and social identity, and a wide range of emotions. Social influences and the perceived utility of an app were highlighted as particularly important. Participants were not previously aware of curated portals but found the concept appealing. Curated health app portals appeared to engender trust and alleviate data protection concerns. Although apps listed on these were perceived as more trustworthy, their presentation was considered disappointing. This disappointment seemed to stem from the functionality of the portals, lack of user guidance, and lack of tailored content to an individual’s needs.

Conclusions: The uptake of health and well-being apps appears to be primarily affected by social influences and the perceived utility of an app. App uptake via curated health app portals perceived as credible may mitigate concerns related to data protection and accuracy, but their implementation must better meet user needs and expectations.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere27173
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2021


  • Behavior change
  • Capability
  • Framework analysis
  • Health apps
  • Mobile phone
  • Motivation-Behavior model
  • Opportunity
  • Smartphone app
  • Theoretical domains framework
  • Think aloud
  • mHealth

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