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Using Apps to Persuade People with COPD to Increase Physical Activity

A study published in Journal of Medical Internet Research provides insight into how technology-based interventions could increase daily walking levels of people with COPD after they complete pulmonary rehabilitation to help them “experience a higher quality of life and fewer acute exacerbations. Researchers developed and implemented three prototype applications based on various persuasive technology design principles including “dialogue support, primary task support, and social support.”

“Our aim was to inform the choice of design principles and specific persuasive techniques in the design of an app that could be used to encourage physical activity in this population,” the researchers wrote.

may2017image004The first prototype utilized dialogue support, along with a virtual coach that addressed the user by their name and instructed them through their goals. Users had the option to receive reminders and “audio encouragement while walking.” The application also “provided a suggested exercise plan with daily goals.”

The second prototype was based upon a primary task support approach. This approach enabled users to set goals and track activity on their mobile device. While engaging in exercise, users were “offered feedback with activity levels for each day.” In addition, the prototype allowed for users to pick their preferred music and highlighted “local exercise facilities on a map.”

The third prototype incorporated the social support approach to “build a community of similar users to support physical activity.” Participants could compete and collaborate with other users, as well as share tracked activity. The application also, “awarded points when users achieved their goals with the potential for both virtual and real-world rewards.”

The study found that out of all three prototypes, the first was the most persuasive and most likely to be used. The second prototype was deemed the most likely application to encourage, “participants to use a technology.” The third prototype was reported to be the least persuasive and inappropriate as the competitive component could “dishearten users.”

Highly ranked features included “features of tips and advice on performing activity,” as well as the ability to set customized goals and view graphed levels of activity. The lowest ranked features included the identification of local sporting facilities, achieving trophies based on the completion of goals and the display of points earned by other participants.

“The findings suggest that a system that supports dialogue between the user and the technology alongside supporting the primary task (here, walking) to promote the self-regulation of physical activity is likely to be acceptable to [people with COPD] and perceived as persuasive,” the researchers wrote.

Click Here to Access the Full Article on The American Journal of Managed Care

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