How Smartphones Are Changing Clinical Research

Apps to Track Exercise, Sleep Help Patients Participate in Clinical Trials

According to Ron Winslow’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Smartphones also offer the capability to track people’s symptoms and activities continuously in their daily lives. In many conventional studies, patients might have just a few clinic visits a year for tests and symptom updates, and those snapshots may not provide a detailed picture.”

“Patients say symptoms fluctuate over the course of a day, but we’ve never had a way of measuring that,” said Ray Dorsey, a University of Rochester researcher who heads the Parkinson’s app study. With a smartphone, patients and researchers can observe symptoms that may change hourly and see how the changes correlate with factors such as exercise, meal times and medication dose. The phone also objectively records measurements of activities—minutes of exercise, steps walked, hours of sleep—which in conventional studies are typically obtained from less-reliable patient recall.

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