Selecting an Ecological Momentary Assessment Platform: Tutorial for Researchers

Lauren M. Henry*, Eleanor Hansen, Justin Chimoff, Kimberly Pokstis, Miryam Kiderman, Reut Naim, Joe Kossowsky, Meghan E. Byrne, Silvia Lopez-Guzman, Katharina Kircanski, Daniel S. Pine, Melissa A. Brotman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Although ecological momentary assessment (EMA) has been applied in psychological research for decades, delivery methods have evolved with the proliferation of digital technology. Technological advances have engendered opportunities for enhanced accessibility, convenience, measurement precision, and integration with wearable sensors. Notwithstanding, researchers must navigate novel complexities in EMA research design and implementation. Objective: In this paper, we aimed to provide guidance on platform selection for clinical scientists launching EMA studies. Methods: Our team includes diverse specialties in child and adolescent behavioral and mental health with varying expertise on EMA platforms (eg, users and developers). We (2 research sites) evaluated EMA platforms with the goal of identifying the platform or platforms with the best fit for our research. We created a list of extant EMA platforms; conducted a web-based review; considered institutional security, privacy, and data management requirements; met with developers; and evaluated each of the candidate EMA platforms for 1 week. Results: We selected 2 different EMA platforms, rather than a single platform, for use at our 2 research sites. Our results underscore the importance of platform selection driven by individualized and prioritized laboratory needs; there is no single, ideal platform for EMA researchers. In addition, our project generated 11 considerations for researchers in selecting an EMA platform: (1) location; (2) developer involvement; (3) sample characteristics; (4) onboarding; (5) survey design features; (6) sampling scheme and scheduling; (7) viewing results; (8) dashboards; (9) security, privacy, and data management; (10) pricing and cost structure; and (11) future directions. Furthermore, our project yielded a suggested timeline for the EMA platform selection process. Conclusions: This study will guide scientists initiating studies using EMA, an in vivo, real-time research tool with tremendous promise for facilitating advances in psychological assessment and intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere51125
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume26
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Funding

FundersFunder number
National Institute of Mental HealthZIAMH002969
National Institute of Mental Health
National Institute on Drug AbuseK01DA057374
National Institute on Drug Abuse

    Keywords

    • child and adolescent
    • ecological momentary assessment
    • in vivo
    • methodology
    • psychology and psychiatry
    • real time

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