Busting the Myth of Apps Equaling Improved Participation in Trials

Aaron Fleishman, Director of Market Development, BBK Worldwide

“It’s time for perception to meet reality” regarding some common notions clinical trial stakeholders have about using health management apps during studies, according to Aaron Fleishman, director of market development for BBK Worldwide.

Delivering a webinar on “Patient Engagement Apps—Help or Hype?” today (October 17) as part of a Bio-IT World series, Fleishman highlighted findings from BBK’s Study Voices initiative, which is capturing input about these apps from patients, sites, and sponsors/contract research organizations (CROs). The goal is to use the feedback, some of which was gathered in cooperation with ACRP, “to reduce burden and enhance the experience” of everyone involved in clinical trials, he noted.

Along the way, Fleishman and his team are “busting myths we have in our industry…by asking the same questions to each audience” to get a better overall picture of the current state of app usage.

One busted myth is that app technology “inherently equals improved participation,” or the idea that “an app will solve my problem,” Fleishman said. Responses from 284 patients, 197 sites, and 161 sponsors/CROs show that even answering the question of “do people even use apps?” is “not quite as clear as people think,” he added.

Among patient respondents, 43.4% said they use zero health management apps regularly—with little difference between age groups—and 60% of this group said they had never even thought about using a health app. So, “when thinking about a clinical trial, you can’t always rely on just digital” delivery of information and functionality, Fleishman warned.

If using an app is a must within a trial, content and communication are crucial, even if “it feels like a lot of work” to educate patients up front about why the app is important and keep them engaged in using it throughout a study, Fleishman said. The app should be visually appealing and regularly updated, as well as feature simple content and multiple useful functions for patients, such as giving them the ability to manage appointments, access their medical records, and send information/data to their doctor, he added.

“There is a correlation between what app users want and what [features] we’re asking patients to use during a clinical trial,” Fleishman said. However, he cautioned research teams not to “rely on just the app to engage patients in participation.” Further, “you can’t just have a lot of functionality and no content—it’s not what patients are looking for…[and shouldn’t be] what you as sponsors are looking for.”

So, one myth about apps is busted, but there’s good news, Fleishman concluded: “Increase the content, increase the awareness, [and] you can increase the usage and improve participation.”

Author: Gary Cramer