Purpose of App Review

The purpose of this app review is to inform readers about the use of emerging smartphone technology to collect clinical research data. This review will focus on a new smartphone app for participants in the Health eHeart clinical research study.

Introduction

The Health eHeart study is a modern cardiovascular clinical research outcome study designed to build on the classic Framingham study.

I am a Health eHeart research study participant and recently downloaded a new smartphone data collection app designed for participants.  

This app is a clinical research tool that increases interaction with study participants by use of text messages and phone contact. Additionally, it provides a platform for collecting survey data and GPS behavioral data. For example, the study information notes that if your phone localizes GPS coordinates of a hospital, you may be queried about whether you have been hospitalized.

User Interface

The Health eHeart smartphone app is a platform for maintaining contact with research subjects and increasing data collection compliance. The app begins with a review of what the app is designed to do. A series of three screens provides an overview of the app. The app developer Ginger.io has partnered with the Health eHeart primary research site at the University of California San Francisco to produce the app.

eHeart1

The app is designed to provide data to the Health eHeart research team by providing a “map of the Behavior Genome” of study participants.

eHeart2

The introduction to the app notes it requires little effort from the user, collects behavioral data in the background and notifies participants about study surveys.

eHeart5

The primary screen is divided into three tabs titled Activity, Community and Me. The Activity tab will provide feedback to participants about their individual data. The Community tab summarizes the status of all data collected via the app.

eHeart3

The Me tab provides information about the app and expanded information on participant study privacy.

eHeart6

I was notified of the app via a study email on September 5, 2013 so this tool is in a very early phase of data collection. I originally had some difficulty downloading the app and emailed support for assistance. The app requires downloading as well as activation that is somewhat cumbersome. My review of the interface covers only initial download and review. I will provide a review of study interaction via the app in a future review.

Evidence to support use

  • Using smartphones to collect research data is a relatively recent research development. Early studies suggest research subjects are open to this tool in the collection of research data. The smartphone has the potential advantage of being able to remind subjects to provide data based on time and location, i.e. rating mood every day at 1 pm. It also has the potential to increase subjects sense of connection with the research team.

Price

  • This app is free to Health eHeart study participants

Likes

  • The app increases a sense of connection to the Health eHeart research team
  • Big data behavioral data has the potential to provide novel discovery of risk factors for disease
  • The app provides potential for improved compliance and reduction in subjects being lost to follow up

Dislikes

  • The app requires activation in addition to downloading and is somewhat cumbersome–an early download problem I experienced has been resolved
  • Collection of big data behavioral data increases concern about protection of research data privacy
  • Not all research subjects have access to smartphones and ability to download and use research data apps

Healthcare providers that would benefit from the app

  • This app provides data only to the Health eHeart research team and is only an investigational data collection tool.

Patients that may benefit from app

  • Subjects participating in research often feel a sense of personal reward for their contribution to discoveries about new treatment for medical disorders.

Conclusion

  • The Health eHeart smartphone app is a simple but potentially powerful tool to collect data in a large epidemiological study of heart disease. This medical research app is designed to supplement data collected by standard online surveys. Some subjects may find the GPS surveillance a significant privacy concern.
  • Enrollment in the Health eHeart research study is open to adults 18 and over with more information at the website. This app is also available on iTunes.

Type of Device used to review app–HTC One V phone using the Android 4.1  operating system
Version of App–Version 2.6

Rating: (1 to 5 stars)

4 Stars

References

Health eHeart Study Website
Health eHeart Facebook Page

Follow Dr. Yates on his neuroscience research blog Brain Posts and on Twitter @WRY999.

Disclaimer:
This post does not establish, nor is it intended to establish, a patient physician relationship with anyone. It does not substitute for professional advice, and does not substitute for an in-person evaluation with your health care provider. It does not provide the definitive statement on the subject addressed. Before using these apps please consult with your own physician or health care provider as to the apps validity and accuracy as this post is not intended to affirm the validity or accuracy of the apps in question. The app(s) mentioned in this post should not be used without discussing the app first with your health care provider.