In a mobile health (mHealth) research study, participants interact with the research team via an app installed on their smartphone. mHealth approaches are gaining popularity because they allow for the collection of novel data types from the phone or other sensors, allow for more frequent data collection in more natural settings, potentially improve participant engagement in the study, and decrease costs. Participants in an app-mediated study typically interact with a mobile application designed for that study, plus potentially other interfaces such as a web application or wearable fitness tracker. These interactions may be used to complement traditional clinical research practices (e.g. to collect data in between office visits), or in some cases the entire research study may be conducted through the app.
While different mHealth studies vary greatly in the specific data types collected, researchers developing mHealth studies have some common needs. One common requirement is a secure way to move the data collected on each individual participant’s smartphone to a central location where it can be aggregated and analyzed by the research team. Research teams may also need to support the distribution and reuse of participant data with other research partners in accordance with best practices for data privacy and the protection of human subjects. To support this need, Sage Bionetworks provides a cloud-based technology platform that provides many capabilities shared among different mHealth studies.