Today, people use their phones for almost everything: ordering food, organizing finances or scheduling out their day-to-day tasks. Mobile devices are becoming the most used tool in people’s lives. But there is one area where mobile devices may be underused: research studies.
It can be challenging to get accurate and real-time data when conducting a population-based research study in a hospital or lab setting. Many studies rely on patient self-reporting – which in turns relies on a patient’s ability to recall details precisely and accurately. Using a phone as a data collection tool could give the patient the ability to log their symptoms, activities and more in real time. But secure, research-oriented tools for doing so can be hard to find.
At a recent Brigham Research Institute’s Research Connection Live Lunch, Yvonne Lee, MD, director of pain research in the BWH Division of Rheumatology, touched on these challenges. Lee and her team had been struggling to get daily data from patients in a secure, HIPAA-compliant fashion for their research projects on rheumatoid arthritis.
“We really struggled,” said Lee. “We wanted to build an app with patients input, but we couldn’t find a development partner.”
Recognizing that this was likely a struggle for other BWH researchers as well, Lee connected with the Brigham Digital Innovation Hub (iHub) to consider creating a platform for patients to securely share data and for researchers to access and analyze data and better connect with study participants.
“As iHub was working with clinicians and the research community, we started to hear requests from folks saying they wanted to use a mobile app to do some research with their patients,” said Josie Elias, program manager, Digital Health Innovation at iHub. “They wanted a platform that would give them both security and flexibility. We wanted to help them innovate. Together, we created a platform that would offer them the basic tools and standard functions needed to create and launch an app tailored to their study’s needs.”
Known as the Brigham Mobile Research Platform, this tool is now available to researchers across the hospital.
The Brigham Mobile Research Platform, supported by the Brigham Digital Innovation Hub, is a suite of tools that speed the process to initiate new research app-based protocols, recruit and retain participants, and simplify data collection, analytics and research operations.
With the base technology already built, the process to build individual specialized apps can be sped up by months. This gives researchers and clinicians more time to focus on the study at hand. “Some researchers are beginning to consider wearable devices, or Bluetooth capabilities to conduct and enhance their study,” explained Elias. “Adding onto the framework and components of the platform, instead of starting at ‘square one,’ can eliminate cost and time.”
Lee and her team use the Brigham Mobile Research Platform to monitor RA disease activity between scheduled patient visits. Researchers studying many different kinds of diseases and outcomes are also using the platform to send notifications, alerts and surveys to study participants.
“The dashboard is used by our care management team to view patients’ activity, as well as send notifications via e-mail, treating it somewhat like a phone call,” explained Bob Rudin, information scientist at the RAND Corporation and creator of the Asthma Symptom Monitoring App, which is currently being used as part of a research study at the Partners Asthma Clinic. Rudin’s app allows clinicians to integrate patient-reported outcomes between visits into routine care. “We have had some pretty high completion rates with the 26 patients we have been surveying.”
The Brigham Mobile Research Platform was built with standard modules that almost every research study will need – like security and Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements – in addition to modules for creating patient-generated data. The team takes these original modules and brings them together to meet the individual need of each project and innovator. The platform was built with its own back-end administrative platform, which is an easy-to-use management tool to best cater to each patient. This dashboard tracks participant progress, status, interactions and results, and can also serve as a communication tool between your research administration staff and the study’s participants.
Throughout the development process, the platform was supported by hospital and Partners teams and leadership. Because of this, the platform is approved for use at the Brigham, meeting HIPAA, IRB and marketing standards.
Want to learn more about the Brigham Mobile Research Platform and how it can benefit or enhance your research study?
If so, please contact us at Brigham Digital Innovation Hub and we can help you start your journey. We will help you work out your idea and send you in the right direction for innovation.