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Clements, Innocent; Lorenz, Andreas; Ulm, Bernhard; Plidschun, Anne; Huber, Stephan (2018): Implementing Systematically Collected User Feedback to Increase User Retention in a Mobile App for Self-Management of Low Back Pain: Retrospective Cohort Study. In: JMIR mHealth and Uhealth, Vol. 6, No. 6, e10422
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Abstract

Background: Promising first results for Kaia, a mobile app digitalizing multidisciplinary rehabilitation for low back pain, were recently published. It remains unclear whether the implementation of user feedback in an updated version of this app leads to desired effects in terms of increased app usage and clinical outcomes. Objective: The aim is to elucidate the effect on user retention and clinical outcomes of an updated version of the Kaia app where user feedback was included during development. Methods: User feedback of the initial app versions (0.x) was collected in a quality management system and systematically analyzed to define requirements of a new version. For this study, the anonymized data of Kaia users was analyzed retrospectively and users were grouped depending on the available version at the time of the sign-up (0.x vs 1.x). The effect on the duration of activity of users in the app, the number of completed exercises of each type, and user-reported pain levels were compared. Results: Overall, data of 1251 users fulfilled the inclusion criteria, of which 196 users signed up using version 0.x and 1055 users signed up with version 1.x. There were significant differences in the demographic parameters for both groups. A log-rank test showed no significant differences for the duration of activity in the app between groups (P=.31). Users signing up during availability of the 1.x version completed significantly more exercises of each type in the app (physical exercises: 0.x mean 1.99, SD 1.61 units/week vs 1.x mean 3.15, SD 1.72 units/week;P<.001;mindfulness exercises: 0.x mean 1.36, SD 1.43 units/week vs 1.x mean 2.42, SD 1.82 units/week;P<.001;educational content: 0.x mean 1.51, SD 1.42 units/week vs 1.x mean 2.71, SD 1.89 units/week;P<.001). This translated into a stronger decrease in user-reported pain levels in versions 1.x (F1,1233=7.084, P=.008). Conclusions: Despite the limitations of retrospective cohort studies, this study indicates that the implementation of systematically collected user feedback during development of updated versions can contribute to improvements in terms of frequency of use and potentially even clinical endpoints such as pain level. The clinical efficiency of the Kaia app needs to be validated in prospective controlled trials to exclude bias.