A mobile app for self-management of urinary incontinence treatment effect and user experience

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: Background Urinary incontinence affects 25-45% of all women. The most common type is stress urinary incontinence, which is the leakage of urine on physical exertion. Pelvic floor muscle training is an effective first-line treatment for this condition but many women do not seek help from their ordinary health care service. There is a need to evaluate new methods to offer effective treatment, and internet-based treatment has previously been found to be effective for women with stress urinary incontinence.Aim To evaluate the mobile app Tät® which has a self-management program focused on pelvic floor muscle training for women with stress urinary incontinence, with respect to treatment effect, factors associated with successful treatment, user experience and use by pregnant and postnatal women.Methods Papers I, II and III are based on the same study population from a randomized controlled trial (RCT). We recruited adult women who had stress urinary incontinence at least weekly via our website. In total, 123 women  were randomized to the app group (n=62) or the control group (n=61). The app included information about incontinence, the pelvic floor and lifestyle factors associated with incontinence, pelvic floor muscle training exercises and functions for reminders and training statistics. Treatment outcome after three months was evaluated using validated questionnaires assessing incontinence symptoms, quality of life, subjective improvement and a leakage diary. Outcomes were compared between the two groups. Factors associated with a successful outcome in the app group were further analysed using logistic regression. We strategically selected 15 women who had used the app and interviewed them about their experiences of using the app. The interviews were analysed according to Grounded Theory. After closing the RCT we made the app freely available and continued to follow its use on a larger scale by incorporating an anonymous questionnaire that appeared within the app upon download and after three months. The data from these questionnaires is used in paper IV.  Results Participants in the RCT had a mean age of 44.7 years (range 27-72) and 120 of the 123 women had moderate/severe incontinence. The app group reported significant improvements in the primary outcomes, the incontinence symptom score (mean ICIQ-UI SF reduction 3.9, 95% CI 3.0-4.7) and the quality of life score (mean ICIQ LUTSqol reduction 4.8, 95% CI 3.4-6.2), and the difference between the groups was significant. The app group also reduced their number of leakages and use of incontinence aids compared to the control group. At follow-up 92% of women in the app group experienced subjective improvement and 56% had improved “much” or “very much” and were classified as having a successful treatment outcome.Factors associated with a successful outcome were higher expectations of treatment effect (OR 11.38, 95% CI 2.02-64.19), weight control (OR 0.44 per kg gained, 95% CI 0.24-0.79), and self-assessed improvement of pelvic floor muscle strength (OR 35.54, 95% CI 4.96-254.61).The main finding from the interviews was that women experienced that the app “enabled their independence”. They described that the app was “something new” that helped with “keeping motivation up” although they sometimes wondered whether their training efforts were “good enough”.The freely available app was downloaded by 10,456 pregnant and postnatal women during a period of ten months (41% of all users). At inclusion 51% experienced incontinence and their mean ICIQ-UI SF score was 6.7 (SD 3.45). After three months, 1,805 women answered the follow-up. The majority of women with incontinence at inclusion experienced improvement with greater improvement in the postnatal group than in the pregnant group.Conclusion The mobile app Tät® offers a new, easily accessible and effective self-management program for women with stress urinary incontinence. Women appreciated that the app enabled them to manage their pelvic floor muscle training independently. Once the app was freely released it reached a large population with many pregnant and postnatal women. We believe that the app could be useful for the prevention of urinary incontinence among pregnant women. We also believe that the app could be used both as a stand-alone treatment and as a complement to other treatments provided by the ordinary health care service.

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