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Background: Mobile health (mHealth) apps are dramatically changing how patients and providers manage and monitor chronic health conditions, especially in the area of self-monitoring. African Americans have higher mortality rates from heart failure than other racial groups in the United States. Therefore, self-management of heart failure may improve health outcomes for African American patients.

Objective: The aim of the present study was to determine the feasibility of using an mHealth app, and explore the outcomes of quality of life, including self-care maintenance, management, and confidence, among African American patients managing their condition after discharge with a diagnosis of heart failure.

Methods: Prior to development of the app, we conducted qualitative interviews with 7 African American patients diagnosed with heart failure, 3 African American patients diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, and 6 health care providers (cardiologists, nurse practitioners, and a geriatrician) who worked with heart failure patients. In addition, we asked 6 hospital chaplains to provide positive spiritual messages for the patients, since spirituality is an important coping method for many African Americans. These formative data were then used for creating a prototype of the app, named Healthy Heart. Specifically, the Healthy Heart app incorporated the following evidence-based features to promote self-management: one-way messages, journaling (ie, weight and symptoms), graphical display of data, and customized feedback (ie, clinical decision support) based on daily or weekly weight. The educational messages about heart failure self-management were derived from the teaching materials provided to the patients diagnosed with heart failure, and included information on diet, sleep, stress, and medication adherence. The information was condensed and simplified to be appropriate for text messages and to meet health literacy standards. Other messages were derived from interviews conducted during the formative stage of app development, including interviews with African American chaplains. Usability testing was conducted over a series of meetings between nurses, social workers, and computer engineers. A pilot one-group pretest-posttest design was employed with participants using the mHealth app for 4 weeks. Descriptive statistics were computed for each of the demographic variables, overall and subscales for Health Related Quality of Life Scale 14 (HQOL14) and subscales for the Self-Care of Heart Failure Index (SCHFI) Version 6 using frequencies for categorical measures and means with standard deviations for continuous measures. Baseline and postintervention comparisons were computed using the Fisher exact test for overall health and paired t tests for HQOL14 and SCHFI questionnaire subscales.

Results: A total of 12 African American participants (7 men, 5 women; aged 51-69 years) diagnosed with heart failure were recruited for the study. There was no significant increase in quality of life (P=.15), but clinically relevant changes in self-care maintenance, management, and confidence were observed.

Conclusions: An mHealth app to assist with the self-management of heart failure is feasible in patients with low literacy, low health literacy, and limited smartphone experience. Based on the clinically relevant changes observed in this feasibility study of the Healthy Heart app, further research should explore effectiveness in this vulnerable population.

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©Sue P Heiney, Sara B Donevant, Swann Arp Adams, Pearman D Parker, Hongtu Chen, Sue Levkoff. Originally published in JMIR Aging (, 03.04.2020. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Aging, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

APA Citation

Heiney, S. P., Donevant, S. B., Adams, S. A., Parker, P. D., Chen, H., & Levkoff, S. (2020). A smartphone app for self-management of heart failure in older African Americans: Feasibility and usability study. JMIR Aging, 3(1), e17142.

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