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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Enabling Psychiatrists to be Mobile Phone App Developers: Insights Into App Development Methodologies

Melvyn Wb Zhang, Tammy Tsang, Enquan Cheow, Cyrus Sh Ho, Ng Beng Yeong, Roger Cm Ho
JMIR MHealth and UHealth 2014 November 11, 2 (4): e53
25486985

BACKGROUND: The use of mobile phones, and specifically smartphones, in the last decade has become more and more prevalent. The latest mobile phones are equipped with comprehensive features that can be used in health care, such as providing rapid access to up-to-date evidence-based information, provision of instant communications, and improvements in organization. The estimated number of health care apps for mobile phones is increasing tremendously, but previous research has highlighted the lack of critical appraisal of new apps. This lack of appraisal of apps has largely been due to the lack of clinicians with technical knowledge of how to create an evidence-based app.

OBJECTIVE: We discuss two freely available methodologies for developing Web-based mobile phone apps: a website builder and an app builder. With these, users can program not just a Web-based app, but also integrate multimedia features within their app, without needing to know any programming language.

METHODS: We present techniques for creating a mobile Web-based app using two well-established online mobile app websites. We illustrate how to integrate text-based content within the app, as well as integration of interactive videos and rich site summary (RSS) feed information. We will also briefly discuss how to integrate a simple questionnaire survey into the mobile-based app. A questionnaire survey was administered to students to collate their perceptions towards the app.

RESULTS: These two methodologies for developing apps have been used to convert an online electronic psychiatry textbook into two Web-based mobile phone apps for medical students rotating through psychiatry in Singapore. Since the inception of our mobile Web-based app, a total of 21,991 unique users have used the mobile app and online portal provided by WordPress, and another 717 users have accessed the app via a Web-based link. The user perspective survey results (n=185) showed that a high proportion of students valued the textbook and objective structured clinical examination videos featured in the app. A high proportion of students concurred that a self-designed mobile phone app would be helpful for psychiatry education.

CONCLUSIONS: These methodologies can enable busy clinicians to develop simple mobile Web-based apps for academic, educational, and research purposes, without any prior knowledge of programming. This will be beneficial for both clinicians and users at large, as there will then be more evidence-based mobile phone apps, or at least apps that have been appraised by a clinician.

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