Patients with multiple myeloma (MM) who used a novel exercise app reported its strengths to be supportive and responsive programming and diverse exercise options. Details of the HEAL-Me app and results of the qualitative study, which was a sub-study of the MY PROGRESS program (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT04484714), were published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer.
However, interviews conducted during the qualitative study found that app usability was a limitation, as some participants reported confusion with the steps required to log their workouts and issues such as glitches.
The study included 20 patients who completed an exercise program using the HEAL-Me app. One-on-one interviews were conducted and content analysis evaluated the resulting transcripts.
The median age of the participants was 64.9 years and 60% were female. There were 45% of participants who had completed university or college, 20% who had completed some university or college, 25% who completed high school, and 5% each who completed some or all of graduate school. The majority of participants had a family income of at least $60,000 per year.
The app tailored exercises to individuals, including finding alternative exercises if needed. Active support from a trainer was also provided through check-ins, and participants valued their expertise. The participants reported an overall favorable experience with the HEAL-Me app, and reported it easy to use. Some participants developed confidence about exercise while using the program.
The virtual format of the program was also viewed favorably, as participants indicated that being able to use it at home reduced their risk of infections, allowed those living in rural areas to participate, and enabled exercise to fit conveniently in their day. However, there were limitations identified, such as not being able to interact with others and difficulty having motivation to continue to exercise.
The participants reported that they valued that the exercise program was designed for patients with MM and specifically addressed MM-related issues.
The ability to participate in virtual supervised group, independent workouts, or a combination of these workouts was reported by participants to be a benefit of the program.
App usability was a limitation for some participants. Although the app was generally viewed as being simple and intuitive, there were some areas identified that caused problems for some participants. This included difficulty logging their independent workouts and instances of “glitches” where the application did not respond or stalled.
The gamification features of the HEAL-Me app were rarely used by participants and although many reported that they could understand how others may appreciate this element, they found it unnecessary for themselves.
“eHealth applications are a promising method to deliver home exercise programming for this population, but the chosen application should be simple to use to ensure technology proficiency is not a barrier for those interested in participating,” the authors concluded in their report.
The HEAL-Me app will be further evaluated in a randomized controlled trial.
Purdy GM, Sobierajski FM, Al Onazi MM, et al. Exploring participant perceptions of a virtually supported home exercise program for people with multiple myeloma using a novel eHealth application: a qualitative study. Support Care Cancer. 2023;31:298. doi: 10.1007/s00520-023-07762-y