Inclusive Usability Testing

We lead usability and feasibility testing with racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse users. S.O.L.V.E. Health Tech can conduct usability and feasibility testing for digital health companies via a sponsored research agreement, typically 12-24 months in length. These projects include study design, ethical approvals, participant engagement and recruitment, data collection, data analysis, as well as presentation and dissemination of results (including in the peer-reviewed literature). Contact us if you are interested in usability and feasibility testing.

Sleep disorders are common and disproportionately affect marginalized populations. To evaluate the usability and acceptability of a wearable sleep monitoring device, the SomnoRing, among diverse patients treated in a safety net clinic, UC S.O.L.V.E. Health Tech partnered with Somnology. Overall, racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse patients with sleep disorders perceived a wearable as useful and acceptable for sleep health. However, we also uncovered external barriers that affected the overall acceptance and usefulness of the SomnoRing.

As a second part of UC S.O.L.V.E. Health Tech's partnership with AppliedVR, we evaluated the usability and acceptability of virtual reality (VR) among patients with chronic pain in safety-net settings. Our results revealed that the majority of patients had a positive experience with VR and almost half found that the VR modules distracted them from their pain. When attempting the navigation-based usability tasks, most participants were able to complete them independently, which suggests that VR is a usable tool for diverse patients with chronic pain. 


To make COVID-19 contact tracing apps more inclusive, UC S.O.L.V.E. Health Tech co-authored this study published in JAMIA, evaluating the usability of mobile contact tracing apps, especially for individuals with limited digital literacy skills and who face barriers to communication. Recommendations made for future app designs include lowering content literacy levels, using racial and gender diverse visuals, and including audio/visual components.

UC S.O.L.V.E. Health Tech partnered with AppliedVR to identify barriers and facilitators to virtual reality (VR) and digital therapeutics in the medical safety-net. We found that frontline pain management clinicians and leaders are interested in digital therapeutics like VR. However, they suggest significant adaptation – such as cultural tailoring, providing the technology in languages other than English, integration with existing clinical workflows – to address the specific needs of the diverse populations they serve. Healthcare IT News covered these findings in a September 2021 press release and Dr. Sarkar presented them at the UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Annual Conference in 2020.

Relevant Publications:

  1. Dy M, Olazo K, Lyles CR, et al. Usability and acceptability of virtual reality for chronic pain management among diverse patients in a safety-net setting: a qualitative analysis. JAMIA Open. 2023;6(3):ooad050. Published 2023 Jul 11. doi:10.1093/jamiaopen/ooad050

  2. Purnell L, Sierra M, Lisker S, et al. Acceptability and Usability of a Wearable Device for Sleep Health Among English- and Spanish-Speaking Patients in a Safety Net Clinic: Qualitative Analysis. JMIR Form Res. 2023;7:e43067. Published 2023 Jun 5. doi:10.2196/43067

  3. Sarkar U, Lee JE, Nguyen KH, Lisker S, Lyles CR. Barriers and Facilitators to the Implementation of Virtual Reality as a Pain Management Modality in Academic, Community, and Safety-Net Settings: Qualitative Analysis. J Med Internet Res. 2021 Sep 22;23(9):e26623. doi: 10.2196/26623. PMID: 34550074.

  4. Blacklow SO, Lisker S, Ng MY, Sarkar U, Lyles C. Usability, inclusivity, and content evaluation of COVID-19 contact tracing apps in the United States. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021 May 22:ocab093. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocab093. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34022053.

  5. Fontil V, McDermott K, Tieu L, Rios C, Gibson E, Sweet CC, Payne M, Lyles CR. Adaptation and Feasibility Study of a Digital Health Program to Prevent Diabetes among Low-Income Patients: Results from a Partnership between a Digital Health Company and an Academic Research Team. J Diab Res. 2016;2016:8472391.

  6. Sarkar U, Gourley GI, Lyles CR, Tieu L, Clarity C, Newmark L, Singh K, Bates DW. Usability of commercially available mobile applications for diverse patients. J Gen Intern Med. 2016 Dec;31(12):1417-1426.
  7. Tieu L, Hobbs A, Sarkar U, Nacev EC, Lyles CR. Adapting Patient Experience Data Collection Processes for Lower Literacy Patient Populations Using Tablets at the Point of Care. Medical Care. 2019 Jun;57:S140-S148.
  8. Nouri SS, Avila-Garcia P, Cemballi AG, Sarkar U, Aguilera A, Lyles CR. Assessing Mobile Phone Digital Literacy and Engagement in User-Centered Design in a Diverse, Safety-Net Population: Mixed Methods Study. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2019;7(8):e14250. 
  9. Garg SK, Lyles CR, Ackerman S, Handley MA, Schillinger D, Gourley G, Aulakh V, Sarkar U. Qualitative analysis of programmatic initiatives to text patients with mobile devices in resource-limited health systems. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2016 Feb 6;16:16.
  10. Rajan JV, Moura J, Gourley G, Kiso K, Sizilio A, Cortez AM, Riley LW, Veras MA, Sarkar U. Understanding the barriers to successful adoption and use of a mobile health information system in a community health center in São Paulo, Brazil: a cohort study. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2016 Nov 17;16(1):146.
  11. Tuot DS, Leeds K, Murphy EJ, Sarkar U, Lyles CR, Mekonnen T, Chen AH. Facilitators and barriers to implementing electronic referral and/or consultation systems: a qualitative study of 16 health organizations. BMC Health Serv Res. 2015 Dec 19;15:568.
  12. Ratanawongsa N, Handley MA, Sarkar U, Quan J, Pfeifer K, Soria C, Schillinger D. Diabetes health information technology innovation to improve quality of life for health plan members in urban safety net. J Ambul Care Manage. 2014 Apr-Jun;37(2):127-37.
  13. Tieu L, Schillinger D, Sarkar U, Hoskote M, Hahn KJ, Ratanawongsa N, Ralston JD, Lyles CR. Online patient websites for electronic health record access among vulnerable populations: portals to nowhere? J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2017 Apr 1;24(e1):e47-e54.