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CU College of Nursing - Research Stories

College of Nursing

Can Smartphone Technology Be Used to Enhance Research Methods?

There's an app for that

Paul Cook

Can smartphone technology be used to enhance research methods? Why not? This past February, the NIH’s National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) awarded a grant to Assistant Professor Paul Cook, PhD, for his study entitled, “Explaining Individual Variability in Antiretroviral Adherence Behavior.” The study uses emerging smartphone technology to ask the question, “What everyday experiences are most strongly related to medication adherence?”

“The issue with HIV is that you have to take medication as scheduled,” says Cook. “It is an unforgiving regimen.” If a patient doesn’t take the medication as prescribed, the virus can mutate and become resistant to further treatment. This study aims to discover which daily life experiences impede people from taking their medication as prescribed.

For instance, if data indicates patients most often forget to take meds when they are stressed, then a future study might focus on the effectiveness of sending participants a text message to remind them to take meds when data indicates a stressful event.  

During the three month study, 75 participants from the University of Colorado Hospital Infectious Disease Clinic will take a daily five minute survey about thoughts, mood, knowledge, social support and other everyday experiences. The data, derived from an application running on a Cricket-Samsung smartphone, will be sent instantaneously to Dr. Cook and his research team who will then cross-reference the results with data on people’s medication adherence from MEMS caps—a device that monitors whether the medication bottle was opened.

Using iPhone and Android technology for research purposes is beneficial because smartphones have the functionality of a computer, and it’s convenient—almost everyone has one. “It’s just adding functionality to something they already have.” ​