RMIT social marketing expert Dr Sandy Fitzgerald is helping overhaul a mobile phone app designed to educate women about the symptoms of potentially deadly ovarian cancer.
Ovarian Cancer Australia (OCA) commissioned Fitzgerald to evaluate the performance of its KISS & Makeup app, launched in 2013 and designed to inform women about the signs of ovarian cancer.
Providing a checklist of common symptoms of ovarian cancer, the KISS (Know the Important Signs and Symptoms of ovarian cancer) & Makeup app also offers women a diary to record symptoms which they can later discuss with their doctor.
Fitzgerald said it was the first free app offered by a reputable health authority about ovarian cancer and was the market leader among nine other ovarian cancer genre apps worldwide.
But she found it had only been downloaded a modest 6141 times, compared to the top 10 health apps, which generate up to four million free – and 300,000 paid – downloads.
“The reason for the modest download figure of the KISS & Makeup app is because it was hard to find due to the volume on the market and also a lack of consistent promotion around it,’’ Fitzgerald said.
“It is also only found on iOS and should be expanded to be downloaded from other sources, including Google Play.”
Fitzgerald, a marketing lecturer in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, specialises in measuring the success of mobile service technologies and is often called in to investigate the psychological and environmental factors that represent triggers or barriers to individuals who strive to change their health habits.
Her research into the app assessed its reach, studied consumer feedback and provided data for its future development.
Fitzgerald found the app peaked twice a year: in February which coincided with Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, and in May, when world ovarian cancer day falls.
“Women appreciated the symptom diary function and liked the fact the diary allowed them to track their symptoms as a record to take to their GP,” she said.
But another function of the app, to provide make-up tips to users, was found by some users to be irrelevant to ovarian cancer, Fitzgerald said.
“It is vital for women to understand the symptoms of ovarian cancer given there is no test for early detection,’’ she said.
“The pathway to diagnosis is normally through presentation to their GP with any of the many symptoms that could indicate an underlying condition.”
Consumer insights present valuable strategies and opportunities to further enhance the app so that it captures user engagement, she said.
“Women wanted female-focused health related information added to the app as well as updates about gynaecological and ovarian cancer research,” Fitzgerald said.
“However Ovarian Cancer Australia must also consider and determine the right amount and type of information to include in its app content.
“The reason for that is if there is too much peripheral information that does not relate directly to ovarian cancer, it may overwhelm or distract users.
“Users expect relevant up-to-date information and feedback on the personal information they have provided about their symptoms.
“The app platform must be able to analyse information provided by users to provide useful feedback.”
Women wanted motivational messages and also suggested they would more likely use the app if it included a sense of online community embedded in it.
“This could include a question guide so they can discuss symptoms with their doctor, to educate users and record meaningful information about their symptoms”
Fitzgerald continues to work with Ovarian Cancer Australia on projects that improve awareness and support resources for women and the community at large.
Story: Kelly Ryan