ECRA Member Chen-Chia Pan:
The number and accessibility of health and medical related mobile applications is steadily increasing. Most of these smartphone apps are designed to promote healthy lifestyles, such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, improving eating habits or increasing physical activity. With the burgeoning mobile phone technology, some of these mobile applications are being integrated with in-device sensors or portable sensors to measure health-related parameters as self-monitoring to support a change in health behavior. These wearables claim to offer higher accuracy than the built-in sensors that came with the smartphones or tablets, especially in terms of accelerometry. Greater accuracy in evaluating movement and activity then suggests a more precise, and possibly more effective, effect on behavioral changes. The research goal is therefore to develop a comprehensive assessment of the current evidence of mobile applications of portable accelerometers as health interventions to initiate and maintain health-related behavioral changes. This project aims to (1) evaluate the comparative effectiveness of mobile apps with and without portable sensors; (2) examine the evidence-based behavioral change techniques used in apps with portable sensors; (3) examine the determinants of the use of apps with portable sensors at the individual level. This work will contribute significantly to the overall research on digital interventions in public health.
The main research questions will focus on the effectiveness of mobile applications using portable sensor integration and on the determinants of the use of applications with remote sensor integration.
Research question 1: Comparative effectiveness of mobile applications with and without Wearable Sensor Integration
This question examines whether applications integrated with wearable sensor integration are more effective in terms of primary (health) and secondary (change in health behavior) outcomes. To our current knowledge, there is no such overview of the comparative effects of applications with wearables or integrated sensors, and this work has the potential to provide a comprehensive summary of the evidence base of behavior modification applications.
Research question 2: Behavior modification techniques for applications with wearable sensors
A number of reviews and mapping exercises suggest that the majority of current applications are built without behavioral theory. Therefore, we will investigate the extent to which behavior modification applications with wearable sensors use evidence-based behavior modification techniques (BCTs) and whether the use of such techniques increases the effectiveness of applications. BCTs are those observable and reproducible components of behavioral change interventions that have been shown to change behavior, i.e., the "agents" of such interventions. Although there is research evidence that digital health applications based on BCTs may be more effective than applications that do not use BCTs, the field is heterogeneous and, in particular, the effectiveness of interventions that rely on sensor data to deliver just-in-time interventions is still questionable. Therefore, we will investigate to what extent applications integrated with portable sensors use BCTs and which BCTs are most commonly used in this field and are associated with effects on primary (health) and secondary (health behavior) outcomes.
Research question 3: Determinants of the use of sensor-based apps to modify physical activity, lack of exercise and sleep
In this research question we will investigate the determinants and correlations at the individual level in the initiation and continued use of apps with portable sensors. Given the popularity of apps, it is remarkable that there is a lack of research on the determinants of continued engagement. Previous research has focused either on preferences and usability aspects of such apps or on the expectation-confirmation effect (i.e., that the application fulfills earlier expectations regarding usage and effects).
However, there is a lack of Research on demographic, health-related and theory-based determinants of the (continued) use of portable monitors and apps.
Chen-Chia Pan, M.A. Physical activity & health
Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology - BIPS
Department for epidemiological methods and etiological research
28359 Bremen, Deutschland
Phone: +49 (0) 421 218-56-897
Fax: +49 (0) 421 218-56-821