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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Temple: NCI-funded Study Looks at Impact of Mobile Devices on Collecting Treatment Data

Are there better ways to evaluate how prescribed therapies are working while patients are living their everyday lives, when doctors aren’t there to check? New answers may come from the digital devices we carry and wear, says Dr. Donna Coffman, a biostatistician in Temple University College of Public Health.

Dr. Coffman is leading a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded study of smoking cessation treatments as a way to develop models that could help researchers improve patient responses to all sorts of ongoing therapies, from managing addictive behaviors to compliance with medication-taking.

“We now have all these devices, from mobile phones to wearables, and they can collect a lot of data,” she says. “In the old days, you’d say to a smoker who’s trying to quit, ‘how have your withdrawal symptoms been over the last six months?’ Now you can send little surveys multiple times per day. That allows us to look at very fine grain associations between, for example, withdrawal symptoms and relapse.”

It’s called ecological momentary assessment (EMA), which — put more simply — is about measuring how people are doing (the assessment) at points in time (the momentary) while they are out in the world (the ecological). By providing new, real-time glimpses of patient behavior and feelings, EMA can help researchers and clinicians understand how medicine and other treatments work over the course of time. That can foster everything from development of new therapies to individually tailored modifications of existing treatments. It can enable real-time interventions as well.

“If you knew there was a moment when someone was likely to relapse, you could send an intervention through their phone,” Dr. Coffman says.

Read more at the College of Public Health.

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