June: Tools for remote research | News & Features



A team of scientists from Cambridge Cognition and the University of Bristol have developed digital assessments for remote clinical research.

Researchers are increasingly inclined to conduct psychological research from a distance, so that they can study cognition and behavior when and where they occur naturally.

Remote methods also improve accessibility as participants are not required to travel to testing locations or meet in person, a particularly important consideration during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. However, it is still not clear how best to validate digital tools for remote clinical research.

The experts looked at various approaches to developing digital assessments for remote clinical research, which they discuss in an article published in the Internet medical research journal.

When creating a new psychological assessment, it is important for scientists to ensure that the assessment accurately measures the concept, behavior, or symptom it intends to assess. Part of this validation process excludes the possibility that changes to the outcome of interest are the result of external influences. Traditionally, when assessments are delivered to the laboratory, researchers ensure that an assessment is reliable by administering the assessment to the same person, in the same environment, at the same time of day on two different days, producing two similar scores. The researchers decide that an assessment is valid if administering the assessment along with a baseline assessment to the same person under controlled conditions produces scores that are consistent with one another.

“If an individual does not get similar results from an assessment taken at different times, that does not necessarily mean that the assessment is unreliable,” said Dr Francesca Cormack, study author and director of research and innovation at Cambridge Cognition. “For example, mood can vary dramatically over time. Therefore, when measuring mood, or a mood-sensitive phenomenon, there may be a considerable difference in the measurements taken at different times. Likewise, demonstrating the validity of an assessment in a controlled laboratory environment does not necessarily tell us about its validity in the real world.

To increase ecological validity, such as generalizing research results to real situations, web-based data collection has grown in popularity over the years. As long as participants can access a computer and an Internet connection and have at least five minutes, they are able to complete many types of cognitive tasks or quizzes outside of the lab. Because researchers have less control over the environment in which participants conduct online assessments, researchers compared performance on the same web-administered and lab-administered assessments to validate online assessments.

To capture more granular behavioral changes over time and across settings, brief assessments (those that take a few minutes or seconds) can be provided on the devices individuals wear, including smartphones and watches. smart. However, it is more difficult to systematically evaluate online reviews that are administered in this way because the research environment (i.e. time and space) is not controlled. Although it is possible to compare the results of a high-frequency field assessment to the results of a low-frequency laboratory assessment, scientists should consider that the contexts in which data are collected are very distinct from one another. others.

Therefore, the authors propose that a controlled environment may not be necessary, nor appropriate, to validate such flexible data collection tools. An alternative is to compare the results of one high frequency field assessment with the results of another high frequency field assessment, both administered in the same temporal and spatial context. Dr Gareth Griffith of Bristol Faculty of Medicine said: “In the absence of controlled laboratory conditions, researchers should instead rely on collecting information about the respondent’s background and taking it into account in subsequent analyzes. “

“The use of brief assessments allows researchers to collect data frequently, perhaps twice a week or a day, without too much of a burden on the participants,” said study author and senior research associate. at the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Bristol, Dr Jennifer Ferrar. “However, this will depend on the specific assessment and the study population. A person with a medical condition may have a much lower threshold for the number of assessments they can comfortably perform than a healthy check. This is not only an ethical issue, but it can have a negative impact on participant engagement and data quality. Ideally, we want reviews to be as brief as possible, but removing components from the review might weaken its validity. These are important tools, but as with any tool, we need to make sure that they are used appropriately.

Paper

“Developing digital tools for remote clinical research: how to assess the validity and feasibility of active field evaluations” in Journal of Medical Internet Research by J Ferrar et al.

More information

About Cambridge Cognition

Cambridge Cognition is a neuroscience technology company that develops digital health products to better understand, detect and treat conditions affecting brain health. The company’s software products assess the cognitive health of patients around the world to improve clinical trial outcomes, identify and stratify patients at an early stage, and improve the overall efficiency of the pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical industries. health care.
For more information visit www.cambridgecognition.com.


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