Simulated clinical encounters using patient-operated mhealth: Experimental study to investigate patient-provider communication

Harry Tunnell, Anthony Faiola, Davide Bolchini, Rebecca Bartlett Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: This study investigates patient-centered mobile health (mHealth) technology in terms of the secondary user experience (UX). Specifically, it examines how personal mobile technology, under patient control, can be used to improve patient-provider communication about the patient’s health care during their first visit to a provider. Common ground, a theory about language use, is used as the theoretical basis to examine interactions. A novel concept of this study is that it is one of the first empirical studies to explore the relative meaningfulness of a secondary UX for specific health care tasks. Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate the extent that patient-operated mHealth technology can be designed to improve the communication between the patient and provider during an initial face-to-face encounter. Methods: The experimental study was conducted in 2 large Midwestern cities from February 2016 to May 2016. A custom-designed smartphone app prototype was used as the study treatment. The experimental design was posttest-only control group and included video-recorded simulated face-to-face clinical encounters in which an actor role-played a patient. Experienced clinicians consisting of doctors (n=4) and nurses (n=8) were the study participants. A thematic analysis of qualitative data was performed. Quantitative data collected from time on task measurements were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Results: Three themes that represent how grounding manifested during the encounter, what it meant for communication during the encounter, and how it influenced the provider’s perception of the patient emerged from the qualitative analysis. The descriptive statistics were important for inferring evidence of efficiency and effectiveness of communication for providers. Overall, encounter and task times averaged slightly faster in almost every instance for the treatment group than that in the control group. Common ground clearly was better in the treatment group, indicating that the idea of designing for the secondary UX to improve provider outcomes has merit. Conclusions: Combining the notions of common ground, human-computer interaction design, and smartphone technology resulted in a prototype that improved the efficiency and effectiveness of face-to-face collaboration for secondary users. The experimental study is one of the first studies to demonstrate that an investment in the secondary UX for high payoff tasks has value but that not all secondary UXs are meaningful for design. This observation is useful for prioritizing how resources should be applied when considering the secondary UX.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere11131
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Majority support for the paper processing fee was provided by the IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Scholarship.

Publisher Copyright:
© Harry Tunnell, Anthony Faiola, Davide Bolchini, Rebecca Bartlett Ellis.


  • Medical informatics
  • Medication reconciliation
  • Personal health record

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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