Unexpected Effects of a System-Distributed Mobile Application in Maternity Care: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Christy J.W. Ledford, Jasmyne J. Womack, Heather A. Rider, Angela B. Seehusen, Stephen J. Conner, Rebecca A. Lauters, Joshua A. Hodge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background. As pregnant mothers increasingly engage in shared decision making regarding prenatal decisions, such as induction of labor, the patient’s level of activation may influence pregnancy outcomes. One potential tool to increase patient activation in the clinical setting is mobile applications. However, research is limited in comparing mobile apps with other modalities of patient education and engagement tools. Aim. This study was designed to test the effectiveness of a mobile app as a replacement for a spiral notebook guide as a patient education and engagement tool in the prenatal clinical setting. Method. This randomized controlled trial was conducted in the Women’s Health Clinic and Family Health Clinic of three hospitals. Repeated-measures analysis of covariance was used to test intervention effects in the study sample of 205 patients. Results. Mothers used a mobile app interface to more frequently record information about their pregnancy; however, across time, mothers using a mobile app reported a significant decrease in patient activation. Discussion. The unexpected negative effects in the group of patients randomized to the mobile app prompt these authors to recommend that health systems pause before distributing their own version of mobile apps that may decrease patient activation. Conclusion. Mobile apps can be inherently empowering and engaging, but how a system encourages their use may ultimately determine their adoption and success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-330
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Education and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • clinical trial
  • computer-mediated health promotion
  • health communications
  • maternal and child health
  • mobile and wireless interventions
  • patient education
  • public and consumer health informatics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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