Older, low-income women prefer to use digital health tools to a paper questionnaire when entering health data, according to a small study of 15 English and Spanish speaking women conducted by researchers from the University of California San Francisco.
The women in the trial used an iPad app developed by five University of California medical centers, called Athena Breast Health Network. The app aims to assess the risk of breast cancer among women receiving mammograms. The app asked participants one question at a time and collected personal health, demographics, and lifestyle data. The Athena app was made available in both English and Spanish.
The researchers recruited women, aged 45–79, who were " in the breast-imaging center of an urban safety net institution" waiting to get a mammogram. Women who completed a mammography paper questionnaire without assistance were asked if they wanted to participate in the study. The women took part in the study after they completed the mammogram.
Interviewers asked the participants questions about their experiences with and attitudes about the Athena app before and after completing the questionnaire on the Athena app. Some of these questions included: "What are your opinions about using the iPad to answer a health questionnaire in clinics?", "Do you prefer to answer a health questionnaire by Pen-and-Paper or iPad?", and "Would you like or dislike if clinics started using the iPad instead of pen- and-paper?"
The primary language of 11 of the women was English and the rest spoke Spanish. Fourteen women owned a mobile phone, but just three of them owned a smartphone. The researchers asked women about their previous exposure to touchscreen technologies and showed them pictures of examples, including ATM machines, smart phones, and tablets. Twelve women had used at least one type of touchscreen device before and 14 had seen a touchscreen previously.
The interviewers found that 11 of the 15 women preferred answering questions on the Athena app compared to the paper survey. All 15 women said they thought the Athena app was easy or very easy to use.