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Publication . Article . 2021

Assessing the usability of wearable devices to measure gait and physical activity in chronic conditions: a systematic review

Alison Keogh; Rob Argent; Amy Anderson; Brian Caulfield; William Johnston;
Open Access
Published: 15 Sep 2021 Journal: Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, volume 18 (eissn: 1743-0003, Copyright policy )
Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media LLC

Abstract Background: The World Health Organisation’s global strategy for digital health emphasises the importance of patient involvement. Understanding the usability and acceptability of wearable devices is a core component of this. However, usability assessments to date have focused predominantly on healthy adults. There is a need to understand the patient perspective of wearable devices in participants with chronic health conditions. Methods: A systematic review was conducted to identify any study design that included a usability assessment of wearable devices to measure mobility, through gait and physical activity, within five cohorts with chronic conditions (Parkinson’s disease [PD], multiple sclerosis [MS], congestive heart failure, [CHF], chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder [COPD], and proximal femoral fracture [PFF]). Results: Thirty-seven studies were identified. Substantial heterogeneity in the quality of reporting, the methods used to assess usability, the devices used, and the aims of the studies precluded any meaningful comparisons. Questionnaires were used in the majority of studies (70.3%; n = 26) with a reliance on intervention specific measures (n = 16; 61.5%). For those who used interviews (n = 17; 45.9%), no topic guides were provided, while methods of analysis were not reported in over a third of studies (n = 6; 35.3%). Conclusion: Usability of wearable devices is a poorly measured and reported variable in chronic health conditions. Although the heterogeneity in how these devices are implemented implies acceptance, the patient voice should not be assumed. In the absence of being able to make specific usability conclusions, the results of this review instead recommends that future research needs to: (1) Conduct usability assessments as standard, irrespective of the cohort under investigation or the type of study undertaken. (2) Adhere to basic reporting standards (e.g. COREQ) including the basic details of the study. Full copies of any questionnaires and interview guides should be supplied through supplemental files. (3) Utilise mixed methods research to gather a more comprehensive understanding of usability than either qualitative or quantitative research alone will provide. (4) Use previously validated questionnaires alongside any intervention specific measures. This work was supported by the Mobilise-D project that has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No. 820820. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Content in this publication reflects the authors’ view and neither IMI nor the European Union, EFPIA, or any Associated Partners are responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.

Subjects by Vocabulary

Microsoft Academic Graph classification: Disease Wearable technology business.industry business Intervention (counseling) Cohort Medicine Multimethodology Digital health Usability Physical therapy medicine.medical_specialty User experience design


Health Informatics, Rehabilitation, Adult, Exercise, Gait, Humans, Multiple Sclerosis, User-Computer Interface, Wearable Electronic Devices, Review, Usability, Wearable sensors, Physical activity, User experience, Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry, RC321-571

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Funded by
Connecting digital mobility assessment to clinical outcomes for regulatory and clinical endorsement
  • Funder: European Commission (EC)
  • Project Code: 820820
  • Funding stream: H2020 | IMI2-RIA
Validated by funder
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