Development of a Self-Management App for People with Spinal Cord Injury

  • W. Ben MortensonEmail author
  • Gurkaran Singh
  • Megan MacGillivray
  • Mahsa Sadeghi
  • Patricia Mills
  • Jared Adams
  • Bonita Sawatzky
Mobile & Wireless Health
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Mobile & Wireless Health


With decreasing inpatient rehabilitation lengths of stay, there may be a greater risk of spinal cord injury (SCI) populations being discharged into the community without the self-management skills needed to prevent secondary complications. Recent advancements in mobile health has made mobile apps a feasible method of delivering population-based, self-management interventions to address SCI-specific secondary complications. The objective of this study is to describe stakeholder perspectives on the development of a functional mobile app to facilitate self-management skills needed to prevent secondary complications following recent SCI during inpatient rehabilitation. A user-centered design approach was used that involved an evolving mobile app and the collection of prospective qualitative data. Stakeholders from three groups were enrolled in the study: individuals admitted for rehabilitation following SCI (n = 20) and informal (n = 7) and formal (n = 48) caregivers. Iterative feedback was gathered from rehabilitation inpatients during ongoing interactions and via post-discharge exit questionnaires, from informal caregivers via one-on-one interviews, and from formal caregivers via series of focus groups at various phases throughout the design process. Three main themes emerged from the analysis: (1) being individualized and user friendly (i.e., developing an app that is simple and easy to use to facilitate universal uptake), (2) targeting goals to promote self-management (i.e., adopting self-management skills relative to personal goals and confidence), and (3) increasing participation and support-seeking to facilitate lifestyle change (i.e., encouraging leisure activities to facilitate community integration). Key stakeholder perspectives contributed to the development of a self-management mobile app that will be evaluated in future research.


Mobile apps eHealth mHealth Self-management Spinal cord injury 



Funding for the research study was provided by the Rick Hansen Institute’s ‘Emerging Interventions & Innovative Technologies’ grant (Grant No. G2015–11). Dr. Mortenson’s work was supported by a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors WBM, GS, MKM, MS, PBM, BJS report no real or perceived conflicts of interest. JA has a conflict of interest as he works as a research and development officer for Self Care Catalysts, a company that may benefit from the development of the mobile app. Conflict of interest was mitigated by Self Catalysts (including JA) having no access to any research data, which remained on the University of British Columbia premises. JA was not involved in the analysis of the data, but was involved in reviewing the final draft of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Collaboration on Repair DiscoveriesVancouverCanada
  2. 2.G.F. Strong Rehabilitation CentreVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Department of Occupational Sciences and Occupational Therapy, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  5. 5.Department of NeurologyWayne State School of Medicine & Detroit Medical CentreDetroitUSA
  6. 6.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  7. 7.Self Care Catalysts Inc.TorontoCanada
  8. 8.Department of Orthopaedics, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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