Developing a Digital Medication Adherence Intervention for and With Patients With Asthma and Low Health Literacy: Protocol for a Participatory Design Approach

Jasper S. Faber*, Charlotte C. Poot, Tessa Dekkers, Natalia Romero Herrera, Niels H. Chavannes, Eline Meijer, V. T. Visch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Background: Current eHealth interventions are poorly adopted by people with low health literacy (LHL) as they often fail to meet their needs, skills, and preferences. A major reason for this poor adoption is the generic, one-size-fits-all approach taken by designers of these interventions, without addressing the needs, skills, and preferences of disadvantaged groups. Participatory design approaches are effective for developing interventions that fit the needs of specific target groups; yet, very little is known about the practical implications of executing a participatory design project for and with people with LHL. Objective: This study aimed to demonstrate the application of participatory design activities specifically selected to fit the needs and skills of people with LHL and how these were manifested within an overarching eHealth design process. In addition, the study aims to present reflections and implications of these activities that could support future designers to engage people with LHL in their design processes. Methods: We used the design process of a smart asthma inhaler for people with asthma and LHL to demonstrate participatory design activities. The study was framed under 5 stages of design thinking: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test within 2 major iteration cycles. We integrated 3 participatory design activities deemed specifically appropriate for people with LHL: co-constructing stories, experience prototype exhibition, and video prototype evaluation. Results: Co-constructing stories was found to deepen the understanding of the participant’s motivation to use or not to use maintenance medication. This understanding informed and facilitated the subsequent development of diverse preliminary prototypes of possible interventions. Discussing these prototypes in the experience prototype exhibition helped provoke reactions, thoughts, and feelings about the interventions, and potential scenarios of use. Through the video prototype evaluation, we were able to clearly communicate the goal and functionality of the final version of our intervention and gather appropriate responses from our participants. Conclusions: This study demonstrates a participatory design approach for and with patients with asthma and LHL. We demonstrated that careful consideration and selection of activities can result in participants that are engaged and feel understood. This paper provides insight into the practical implications of participatory activities with people with LHL and supports and inspires future designers to engage with this disadvantaged target group.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere35112
Number of pages11
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • asthma
  • eHealth
  • health care
  • health literacy
  • low health literacy
  • medication
  • medication adherence
  • mHealth
  • participatory design
  • participatory medicine


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