Examining predictors of real-world user engagement with self-guided eHealth interventions: Analysis of mobile apps and websites using a novel dataset

Amit Baumel, John M. Kane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The literature suggests that the product design of self-guided electronic health (eHealth) interventions impacts user engagement. Traditional trial settings, however, do not enable the examination of these relationships in real-world use. Objective: This study aimed to examine whether the qualities of product design, research evidence, and publicly available data predict real-world user engagement with mobile and Web-based self-guided eHealth interventions. Methods: This analysis included self-guided mobile and Web-based eHealth interventions available to the public-with their qualities assessed using the Enlight suite of scales. Scales included Usability, Visual Design, User Engagement, Content, Therapeutic Persuasiveness, Therapeutic Alliance, Credibility, and Research Evidence. Behavioral data on real-world usage were obtained from a panel that provides aggregated nonpersonal information on user engagement with websites and mobile apps, based on a time window of 18 months that was set between November 1, 2016 and April 30, 2018. Real-world user engagement variables included average usage time (for both mobile apps and websites) and mobile app user retention 30 days after download. Results: The analysis included 52 mobile apps (downloads median 38,600; interquartile range [IQR] 116,000) and 32 websites (monthly unique visitors median 5689; IQR 30,038). Results point to moderate correlations between Therapeutic Persuasiveness, Therapeutic Alliance, and the 3 user engagement variables (.31≤rs≤.51; Ps≤.03). Visual Design, User Engagement, and Content demonstrated similar degrees of correlation with mobile app engagement variables (.25≤rs≤.49; Ps≤.04) but not with average usage time of Web-based interventions. Positive correlations were also found between the number of reviews on Google Play and average app usage time (r=.58; P<.001) and user retention after 30 days (r=.23; P=.049). Although several product quality ratings were positively correlated with research evidence, the latter was not significantly correlated with real-world user engagement. Hierarchical stepwise regression analysis revealed that either Therapeutic Persuasiveness or Therapeutic Alliance explained 15% to 26% of user engagement variance. Data on Google Play (number of reviews) explained 15% of the variance of mobile app usage time above Enlight ratings; however, publicly available data did not significantly contribute to explaining the variance of the other 2 user-engagement variables. Conclusions: Results indicate that the qualities of product design predict real-world user engagement with eHealth interventions. The use of real-world behavioral datasets is a novel way to learn about user behaviors, creating new avenues for eHealth intervention research.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere11491
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Journal of Medical Internet Research. All rights reserved.


  • Behavior change
  • EHealth
  • MHealth
  • Persuasive design
  • Therapeutic alliance
  • User engagement
  • User experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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