Mobile apps for diabetes present usability issues for older adults

August 31, 2012

Diabetes is prevalent among adults aged 65 and older and can lead to a number of other serious health issues. Maintaining control of blood glucose levels is one of the most important actions diabetics can take to control their illness. New technology is designed to make self-monitoring easier and more accessible than ever before, but often tech products fail to accommodate some older users. Human factors/ergonomics researchers Laura A. Whitlock and Anne Collins McLaughlin evaluated the usability issues that older adults may experience with one type of emerging technology, blood-glucose-tracking applications for mobile devices, and will present their findings at the upcoming HFES 56th Annual Meeting in Boston.

Tracking apps for mobile devices are designed to log the multiple variables, such as food consumption and medication use, that influence blood glucose levels. These apps may incorporate other features to help diabetics monitor their blood glucose, including alarm-based reminders, educational tools, interactive forums, and report generators. But older users may experience difficulty because of the declines in cognition, vision, and motor skills that can occur with aging or the progression of the disease. If they can't easily use tools that encourage active self-monitoring, they may stop using them.

In their Annual Meeting proceedings paper, "Identifying Usability Problems of Blood Glucose Tracking Apps for Older Adult Users," the researchers examined three leading blood glucose mobile apps to determine whether they present usability issues for older adults, particularly visual and physical obstacles. "We found that even though these apps are rated highly [in Apple's App Store], they may present a number of challenges for older adults," Whitlock noted.

Examples of potential design problems include pages with small text and poor color contrast, icons that enter into an alternate mode if the user holds the button too long, scroll wheels that obscure the page view, and a font size that decreases when the length of the text exceeds one line. Adults with poor vision, memory limitations, or declining motor skills are especially likely to encounter usability problems.

"Developers are recognizing and responding to the desire to use mobile technology to improve personal health, and we're going to continue to see the growth of mobile applications to answer health needs," continued Whitlock. "However, I think it's important for the public to know that this can and should be done in a way that is accessible to all, including older adults."
-end-
To obtain an advance copy of the paper for reporting purposes, or for more information about other research to be presented at the HFES 56th Annual Meeting, contact Lois Smith (lois@hfes.org) or Cara Quinlan (cara@hfes.org; 310/394-1811).

The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society is the world's largest nonprofit individual-member, multidisciplinary scientific association for human factors/ergonomics professionals, with more than 4,600 members globally. HFES members include psychologists and other scientists, designers, and engineers, all of whom have a common interest in designing systems and equipment to be safe and effective for the people who operate and maintain them. Watch science news stories about other HF/E topics at the HFES Web site. "Human Factors and Ergonomics: People-Friendly Design Through Science and Engineering"

Plan to attend the HFES 56th Annual Meeting, October 22-26: https://www.hfes.org//Web/HFESMeetings/2012annualmeeting.html

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

Related Diabetes Articles from Brightsurf:

New diabetes medication reduced heart event risk in those with diabetes and kidney disease
Sotagliflozin - a type of medication known as an SGLT2 inhibitor primarily prescribed for Type 2 diabetes - reduces the risk of adverse cardiovascular events for patients with diabetes and kidney disease.

Diabetes drug boosts survival in patients with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 pneumonia
Sitagliptin, a drug to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, also improves survival in diabetic patients hospitalized with COVID-19, suggests a multicenter observational study in Italy.

Making sense of diabetes
Throughout her 38-year nursing career, Laurel Despins has progressed from a bedside nurse to a clinical nurse specialist and has worked in medical, surgical and cardiac intensive care units.

Helping teens with type 1 diabetes improve diabetes control with MyDiaText
Adolescence is a difficult period of development, made more complex for those with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

Diabetes-in-a-dish model uncovers new insights into the cause of type 2 diabetes
Researchers have developed a novel 'disease-in-a-dish' model to study the basic molecular factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, uncovering the potential existence of major signaling defects both inside and outside of the classical insulin signaling cascade, and providing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and possibly opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics for the disease.

Tele-diabetes to manage new-onset diabetes during COVID-19 pandemic
Two new case studies highlight the use of tele-diabetes to manage new-onset type 1 diabetes in an adult and an infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.

People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.

Read More: Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.