Teaching and evaluating smartphone applications: The effectiveness of a curriculum expansion

Susan G Rodder, Tiffany B Kindratt, Chunyun Xiao, Venetia L Orcutt, Courtney Koch, Kelley McIlvaine, Mary Alice Neville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Mobile health (mHealth) technology is increasingly utilized to support lifestyle recommendations through nutrient and blood pressure tracking. As patients pose questions regarding the validity and use of this technology, curriculum targeting mHealth technology is essential for the future health professionals. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a curriculum expansion which addressed mHealth technology provided to physician assistant (PA) and clinical nutrition (CN) students enrolled in an academic health center. In addition, the validity of the mobile application (app), MyNetDiary, was determined. Methods: A smartphone application appraisal tool, based on scientific recommendations, was developed. Students were taught how to use this tool to evaluate mobile apps. Students received instruction on providing patient education on mobile apps used to track calories and nutrients and mobile medical apps to measure blood pressure. Pre-/post-surveys and objectively structured clinical examinations measured students' confidence and abilities in teaching patients to use MyNetDiary and Withings Health Mate apps. Wilcoxon rank sum tests evaluated statistical significance. Validity of nutrient estimates was determined using Spearman correlations. Results: Confidence levels improved significantly on all items measured for both PA and CN students (P < 0.001). During the objectively structured clinical examination, all students demonstrated effective communication skills with 98.4% successfully demonstrating of how to enter foods into the MyNetDiary app and 94.3% connecting the blood pressure cuff with the withings app. Significant correlations were found when comparing MyNetDiary to SuperTracker (all P < 0.001). Discussion: This study investigated and demonstrated the effectiveness of an expanded curriculum designed to enhance students' confidence and skills in providing lifestyle counseling incorporating the use of mHealth technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-102
Number of pages8
JournalEducation for Health: Change in Learning and Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Lifestyle counseling
  • mobile applications
  • mobile health
  • mobile health technology
  • mobile medical applications
  • nutrient estimates
  • nutrition education
  • objective structured clinical exam
  • smartphone applications
  • students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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