Engagement, Retention and Acceptability in a Digital Health Program for Atopic Dermatitis: Prospective Interventional Study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



JMIR formative research




BACKGROUND: Patients with Atopic Dermatitis (AD) can experience chronic eczema with pruritus, skin pain, sleep problems, anxiety, and other problems that reduce their quality of life (QoL). Current treatments aim to improve these symptoms and reduce inflammation, but poor treatment adherence and disease understanding are key concerns in the long-term management of AD. Digital therapeutics can help with these, and support patients towards a healthier lifestyle to improve their overall QoL. OBJECTIVE: To test the feasibility of a digital health program tailored for AD through program engagement, retention and acceptability. METHODS: Adults with AD were recruited in Iceland for a six-week digital health program delivered through a smartphone app. Key components of the digital program were disease and trigger education, medication reminders, patient-reported outcomes (PROs) on energy levels, stress levels, and quality of sleep (referred to as QoL PROs), AD symptom PROs, guided meditation, and healthy lifestyle coaching. The primary outcome was program feasibility, as assessed by in-app retention and engagement. User satisfaction was assessed by the mHealth App Usability Questionnaire (MAUQ). RESULTS: Twenty-one patients were recruited (17 female, mean age: 31 years); 20 (95%) completed the program. On average, users were active in the app 6.5 days per week and completed 8.2 missions per day. The education content, medication reminders, and PROs had high user engagement and retention; all users who were exposed to the QoL PROs (n=17) interacted with these, and 20/21 (95%) users continuously engaged with the education missions, medication missions, and symptom PROs. Continued engagement with the step counter and mind missions among exposed users was lower (17/21 and 13/20 participants respectively). Medication reminder and education task completion remained high over time (at least 18/20, 90%), but weekly interactions declined. All assigned users completed AD symptom PROs on weeks 1-5 and only one did not do so on week 6; the reported number and total severity of AD symptoms reduced during the program. Regarding the QoL PROs, 16/17 (94%) and 14/17 (82%) users interacted with these at least 3 times in the first and last week of the program respectively, and all reported improvements over time. User satisfaction was high, with a total score of 6.2/7. CONCLUSIONS: We found high overall engagement and retention in a targeted digital health program among patients with AD, as well as high compliance with missions relating to medication reminders, patient education, and PROs. Symptom number and severity was reduced and QoL PROs improved over time. We conclude that a digital health program is feasible and may provide added benefits for patients with AD, including the tracking and improvement of AD symptoms.