2018 seems to be a promising year for new breakthroughs in healthcare and medical research given the keen focus being put on areas such as AI, IoT and other disruptive technologies. If you have been mulling over how to achieve new breakthroughs in your field of research, you might want to think of new ways to conduct your study and find and engage study participants. Given below are a few ideas on how doing things differently can yield valuable results for your research.
1. Administer your study on a Mobile App
What does this mean? If you have not heard of Apple ResearchKit before, it is an example of a mobile technology framework that makes it easy to create mobile apps that people can use to take part in a study. Frameworks such as these have made it easy to create/develop mobile apps for research. Many leading research teams across the world have realized the value-add in providing participants with a tool to provide response data from anywhere and at any time. Mobile apps can help you collect responses to surveys from participants in the context of their real world and on issues or symptoms as they experience them. They can also help with active and passive data collection from the phone and associated sensors and smart devices.
2. Leverage Social Media
A lot of people would actually be willing to take part in a study if it could benefit themselves, their loved ones or the community at large. All they need is to be in the know of such studies, what it entails from them and what are the terms of consenting for the study. The first step is to create awareness about the study, and, in this day and age, there is no better way to reach the masses than via social media. Targeted advertisements can help you reach out to demographics being focused on in your study thereby increasing chances of getting a good number of people signing up for the study who can provide you with more data and associated valuable insights through their participation.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more – choose the platform that you know will help reach maximum people from your target audience. Clearly spell out study objectives and benefits in a relatable and resonating manner and encourage readers to share the information on social media. When people share your posts on social media, it makes for a great way to increase your outreach in rapidly multiplying ways.
3. Make the process of study enrollment seamless and hassle-free
If you have gotten someone interested in exploring your study, that’s a great beginning but does not guarantee that the person will indeed enroll and participate. So, the next step to focus on is the prospect-to-participant conversion aspect, and ensure the person does not wean away because the enrollment process, the consent process or the study access mechanism is confusing or tedious. So how do you ensure that people have an easy way to enroll for studies? First off, give them a link where they can easily land on the study website of even better, if you have a mobile app for your study, give them links to the App Store with simple verbiage that all they need to do is download the app and follow the simple steps that are presented within the app.
Design your study app in a manner that feels intuitive and also provides study information that is easy for people to digest and understand. This is where the mobile tech frameworks such as Apple ResearchKit, ResearchStack etc. help. They come with pre-created and content-customizable modules (such as for example, the one for Informed Consent) that help develop these apps with a faster time-to-market.
To make for a seamless enrollment process, ensure your app has the following modules presented in logical sequence to the user
a) App Introduction: Embed screens with helpful text, images and video that help users understand what the study is about. Focus on the purpose of the study and its potential, also how the prospect’s participation can be beneficial – for themselves and for the community. Also ensure you touch upon security and privacy concerns that people may have.
b) Eligibility Test: Many a time, a study isn’t meant for everyone. You have a specific target audience in mind. It is good to have prospects take a quick eligibility test to determine if they fall into that group and if it would make sense for them to participate.
c) Informed Consent: This section should be used to educate prospects about the study and the terms of participating, and then formally obtain their ‘informed consent’ from them to collect their data and use it for the study. The Consent section should provide the tenets and terms of study in easily digestible chunks of information to the user while also giving them the provision to read the longer ‘legal text’ or ‘fine print’ version of it. Apps can be programmed to have users fill up a form and provide their signature, as part of the consent process. It is possible to generate a Consent Document PDF with this signature on it – a signed Consent Document – and allow the participant to download or email it to themselves.
d) Comprehension Test: Many times, researchers prefer to have the prospect take a quick ‘comprehension test’ before asking them to provide consent for the study. This test helps gauge if they have understood what the study is about and how the data they consent to provide, will be used. The app should urge the prospect to re-read the consent terms and retake the test in case they fail!
Once the person has provided consent, they can proceed to completing the enrollment process with an account or profile setup form – as needed by your study.
4. Keep your participants engaged – from day 1!
When using mobile apps, it is key to keep participants engaged so as to have ensure high levels of data collection. From the very moment the participant completes enrollment and lands on the ‘Home’ screen of your app, keep them interested and engaged. This is possible if you cater to the following:
a) Have the action items upfront: Whether you want them to take a survey after breakfast or do a quick active task, ensure that participants know what they have to do upfront. Have call-to-action items right on the first screen they see in the app each time they launch it. Also having a mechanism to provide users with alerts and reminders when a task is due, will be very helpful.
b) Provide progress and status reports: Provide your participants with easy-to-understand displays of activity and study completion and progress. This helps keep them focused and motivated during the course of the study.
c) Provide resources and incentives: Give participants additional benefits of using the app. Whether is it useful resources to read, or a coupon to redeem upon completion of participation, have something that keeps them going.
Note that these are only a few ideas for participant engagement – there are several more – but these serve as a good sample of the same. Depending on the nature of your study and your target audience, ensure you design the app to make it as engaging for them as possible.
If you are looking for your research to touch new frontiers in 2018, you should seriously consider adopting some of these ideas for your study. Having a higher number of participants, larger volumes of data collection and also newer kinds of data collected, can indeed unravel amazing insights that can prove to be ground-breaking for your field of research.