mHealth Apps Use and Their Associations With Healthcare Decision-Making and Health Communication Among Informal Caregivers: Evidence From the National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey


Purpose: The current study investigates associations between mHealth apps and healthcare decision-making and health communication among informal caregivers in the US. Design: Cross-sectional study employing secondary data. Setting: The Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS5, Cycles 2 through 4, 2018 – 2020). Sample: Self-identified informal caregivers (n = 1386; had mHealth apps = 61.3%, female = 63.2%, some college or more in education = 80.3%) who reported owning at least a smartphone or a tablet computer (i.e., ownership of a “smart device”). Measures: Sociodemographic characteristics, reports of having mHealth apps, smart device utilization in healthcare decision-making and health communication. Analysis: Accounting for the complex design features of the HINTS data, we constructed multiple hierarchical logistic regressions to compute adjusted odds ratios (aOR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI). Results: Compared to caregivers without mHealth apps, those with the apps had higher odds of utilizing their smart devices to make a health-related decision, such as how to treat a disease or a medical condition (aOR = 1.65; 95% CI: 1.13-2.39, P <.01), or engage in health-related discussions with a healthcare provider (aOR = 2.36; 95% CI: 1.54-3.61, P <.001). Conclusion: Having mHealth apps was associated with a higher likelihood of using smart devices in healthcare decision-making and health communication by informal caregivers. Empowering caregivers to make informed health-related decisions and communicate effectively with healthcare providers are both crucial to health promotion and well-being. Future studies should investigate facilitators as well as barriers to using mHealth apps and smart devices in health-promoting strategies involving informal caregivers.

Publication Title

American Journal of Health Promotion