Development of the mHealth App Trustworthiness checklist


van Haasteren A, Gille F, Fadda M, Vayena E. (2019). Development of the mHealth App Trustworthiness checklist. Digital Health. 5: 1-21. doi: 10.1177/2055207619886463

Researchers developed a 41-item mobile app trustworthiness (mHAT) checklist to inform app development. The mHAT checklist addresses the features and characteristics of mHealth apps associated with perceived trustworthiness. Researchers designed the mHAT checklist in 3 stages: (1) literature review, (2) focus group sessions with health app users, and (3) expert feedback. To identify relevant themes for the focus group discussions, researchers conducted a literature review of 15 studies of physical activity apps. Researchers recruited 20 adults (ages 20-45) from a Swiss university campus through poster advertisements to participate in one of four focus groups. Eligible participants were past or present users of the activity apps identified in the literature review. To encourage discussion, researchers created a list of beneficial app features derived from the literature review and asked participants to rank each item. Five main themes emerged from the hour-long focus groups: (1) informational content (information accuracy, transparency), (2) attributes of the organization (brand familiarity, reputation), (3) societal influences (recommendations, cost), (4) technology-related features (usability, privacy), and (5) user control (autonomy (i.e. control over personal data). Researchers translated qualitative focus group data into a checklist of characteristics associated with app trustworthiness and sent the checklist to six mHealth experts (software engineers, computer scientists, programmers) via email for feedback. Experts considered the checklist valid but recommended strengthening the language used in the information accuracy and privacy sections. Researchers finalized the checklist by incorporating the expert suggestions into a 41-item version. Future research could recruit a larger and more diverse group of experts to assess the validity of the mHAT checklist.