Methods of carrying out medical research studies have been rapidly evolving with more and more teams opting to move their research to a mobile device platform1 to facilitate better patient engagement and enhance the volume and value of data collected. There are also several data management systems and analytics platforms that help store and analyze the response data to derive meaningful research outcomes. It is imperative to select the right technology ecosystem in the process of planning for electronically and remotely running a study. Key considerations that may help drive these decisions include the target audience and the range of demographics desired for the study, the desired means of managing content for the study, and the extent of data storage and analytics capabilities required for the study.
Choosing the technology ecosystem for a study involves deciding on the following:
a) Medium of participation: Based on the target audience you have in mind, the budget for the project, kinds of data that need to be collected and the extent of patient engagement you see as important for the study, you could choose from conventional web applications, native mobile apps or hybrid mobile apps. Mobile apps come with inherent advantages of being able to leverage mobile frameworks such as Apple ResearchKit or Ionic ResearchKit and native features such as activity sensors, push notifications and more.
b) Response Data Management System: This is where participant responses will be stored with provisions to run analytics on it to derive insights and findings. You could choose from the regulatory-compliant response data storage and analytics platforms available in the market or choose to build a custom one with a desired feature set. Web services or APIs will help the mobile app communicate with this system to store and fetch (if needed) responses
c) Means of feeding study content into the apps: Research studies typically need an IRB approval on the protocol, content and procedures of the study. So a good extent of all study material must be defined well before making it available for participants. You could opt to ‘hardcode’ the content into your app. However, it is useful to have a convenient system to electronically create study content (primarily, the study survey instruments and other data collection tools) in order to be able to easily map responses to questions and run analytics on the data thus gathered. You could choose a Response Data Management System that also allows for such content creation. Alternatively, you could build a custom web application with features of choice that will allow the team of researchers to collaboratively work on study content creation and set up study activity and related configurations for the mobile app to consume. Metadata in the web services will ensure that the response data from the mobile app is stored against the right study activity identifiers.
Choosing the right technology ecosystem is key to the success of the study as it helps ensure seamless end-to-end data operations that a study entails. Based on your considerations of budget, study requirements, target audience and other factors such as leveraging existing in-house systems that are already in use, we can help design a solution that best works for you. There is a whole platter of options to choose from, but doing what is right for your organization’s unique needs will help drive the true success of the study.