JMIR serious games 2016 05 134(1) e6 doi 10.2196/games.5687
In the United States, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disproportionately affects young men who have sex with men (YMSM). For HIV-positive individuals, adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) is critical for achieving optimal health outcomes and reducing secondary transmission of HIV. However, YMSM often struggle with ART adherence. Novel mobile phone apps that incorporate game-based mechanics and social networking elements represent a promising intervention approach for improving ART adherence among YMSM.
This study used a multiphase, iterative development process to create an ART adherence app for YMSM.
The three-phase development process included: (1) theory-based concept development jointly by public health researchers and the technology team, (2) assessment of the target population’s ART adherence needs and app preferences and development and testing of a clickable app prototype, and (3) development and usability testing of the final app prototype.
The initial theory-based app concept developed in Phase One included medication reminders, daily ART adherence tracking and visualization, ART educational modules, limited virtual interactions with other app users, and gamification elements. In Phase Two, adherence needs, including those related to information, motivation, and behavioral skills, were identified. Participants expressed preferences for an ART adherence app that was informational, interactive, social, and customizable. Based on the findings from Phase Two, additional gaming features were added in Phase Three, including an interactive battle, superhero app theme, and app storyline. Other features were modified to increase interactivity and customization options and integrate the game theme. During usability testing of the final prototype, participants were able to understand and navigate the app successfully and rated the app favorably.
An iterative development process was critical for the development of an ART adherence game app that was viewed as highly acceptable, relevant, and useful by YMSM.