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Charting a Course for Smartphones and Wearables to Transform Population Health Research

Dixon, William G; van der Veer, Sabine N; Ali, Syed Mustafa; Laidlaw, Lynn; Dobson, Richard JB; Sudlow, Cathie; Chico, Tim; ... Doherty, Aiden; + view all (2023) Charting a Course for Smartphones and Wearables to Transform Population Health Research. Journal of Medical Internet Research , 25 , Article e42449. 10.2196/42449. Green open access

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Abstract

The use of data from smartphones and wearable devices has huge potential for population health research, given the high level of device ownership; the range of novel health-relevant data types available from consumer devices; and the frequency and duration with which data are, or could be, collected. Yet, the uptake and success of large-scale mobile health research in the last decade have not met this intensely promoted opportunity. We make the argument that digital person-generated health data are required and necessary to answer many top priority research questions, using illustrative examples taken from the James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnerships. We then summarize the findings from 2 UK initiatives that considered the challenges and possible solutions for what needs to be done and how such solutions can be implemented to realize the future opportunities of digital person-generated health data for clinically important population health research. Examples of important areas that must be addressed to advance the field include digital inequality and possible selection bias; easy access for researchers to the appropriate data collection tools, including how best to harmonize data items; analysis methodologies for time series data; patient and public involvement and engagement methods for optimizing recruitment, retention, and public trust; and methods for providing research participants with greater control over their data. There is also a major opportunity, provided through the linkage of digital person-generated health data to routinely collected data, to support novel population health research, bringing together clinician-reported and patient-reported measures. We recognize that well-conducted studies need a wide range of diverse challenges to be skillfully addressed in unison (eg, challenges regarding epidemiology, data science and biostatistics, psychometrics, behavioral and social science, software engineering, user interface design, information governance, data management, and patient and public involvement and engagement). Consequently, progress would be accelerated by the establishment of a new interdisciplinary community where all relevant and necessary skills are brought together to allow for excellence throughout the life cycle of a research study. This will require a partnership of diverse people, methods, and technologies. If done right, the synergy of such a partnership has the potential to transform many millions of people’s lives for the better.

Type: Article
Title: Charting a Course for Smartphones and Wearables to Transform Population Health Research
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.2196/42449
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.2196/42449
Language: English
Additional information: © 20023 the Authors. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: mHealth (622); wearable (22); person-generated health data (1); population health research; devices (3); research (24); health (32); data; mobile health (237); clinical (17); digital (21)
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Health Informatics
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Health Informatics > Clinical Epidemiology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10164608
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