Step-by-step development of e-health apps

Based on literature and based on results of the IROHLA project, we found some concrete information on how to develop e-health apps effectively. Below we describe the step-by-step development and give some links to websites or tools. It also links to six steps for improving health literacy in general, you ca find information on that here.

Development of the app

  • Keep the app simple and focused and do not incorporate complicated feedback tools.
  • Ensure privacy and reliability – demonstrate how sensitive medical information is kept private.
  • Emphasise the need to be able to self-assess and monitor progress – applications which allow participants to self-monitor progress are more successful.
  • Create (virtual) communities where mutual support and social contacts are offered and help contribute to acceptance of the app and confidence in using technology.

Training how to use the app

  • E-health services for older adults with low health literacy should be very simple to learn and use. Offer several training sessions and allow for a familiarisation period. Group training sessions have many advantages. Older people often are not able to use apps after downloading them: they need support and training. The best way is to engage in the training with peers with whom older people can identify. Download PDF here
  • Including a general training session on the use of ICT technologies might improve the willingness/capabilities of older adults with low health literacy to work with e-health tools. If older people have family, neighbours or communities to support them, they can overcome barriers more easily – it is important to seek their support

Marketing of the app

  • Follow appropriate communication strategies suitable for older participants. The IROHLA project looked at other disciplines which offer important insight such as marketing and communication sciences. Download PDF here
  • International Council on Active Aging: Guidelines for effective communication with older adults Download PDF here
  • Communicating With Older Adults: An Evidence-Based Review of What Really Works With Older Adults Download PDF here
  • Quick Guide to Health Literacy Download PDF here

Stimulate the usage of the app

  • Make e-health interventions part of a health plan, do not offer them in isolation.
  • E-health and m-health applications are more successful when complemented with real-life interventions.
  • Create options for healthcare professionals to monitor health conditions and to send feedback.
  • Offer opportunities to receive support from programme facilitators. Additional means of communication like telephone calls, home visits, postcards, help remind older people who are not daily users of electronic gadgets.

Sustainability of use

  • Be aware that it requires efforts to convince older adults with low health literacy to use of an e-health service for an extended period of time. These efforts are different from those needed to convince this group to start using an e-health service.
  • Plan for long implementation periods – longer use of the system will help familiarise with a specific application, as well as with e-health and m-health applications more generally. Longer implementation will bring about better results
  • Incorporate e-health in social life. Use venues often used by older adults. Clubs, religious settings, sports centres are excellent locations to implement e-health and m-health based interventions.