Identifying Factors Associated With Dropout During Prerandomization Run-in Period From an mHealth Physical Activity Education Study: The mPED Trial

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2015 Apr 13;3(2):e34. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.3928.


Background: The mobile phone-based physical activity education (mPED) trial is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluating a mobile phone-delivered physical activity intervention for women. The study includes a run-in period to maximize the internal validity of the intervention trial, but little is known about factors related to successful run-in completion, and thus about potential threats to external validity.

Objective: Objectives of this study are (1) to determine the timing of dropout during the run-in period, reasons for dropout, optimum run-in duration, and relevant run-in components, and (2) to identify predictors of failure to complete the run-in period.

Methods: A total of 318 physically inactive women met preliminary eligibility criteria and were enrolled in the study between May 2011 and April 2014. A 3-week run-in period was required prior to randomization and included using a mobile phone app and wearing a pedometer. Cross-sectional analysis identified predictors of dropout.

Results: Out of 318 participants, 108 (34.0%) dropped out prior to randomization, with poor adherence using the study equipment being the most common reason. Median failure time was 17 days into the run-in period. In univariate analyses, nonrandomized participants were younger, had lower income, were less likely to drive regularly, were less likely to have used a pedometer prior to the study, were generally less healthy, had less self-efficacy for physical activity, and reported more depressive symptoms than randomized participants. In multivariate competing risks models, not driving regularly in the past month and not having used a pedometer prior to the study were significantly associated with failure to be randomized (P=.04 and .006, respectively), controlling for age, race/ethnicity, education, shift work, and use of a study-provided mobile phone.

Conclusions: Regular driving and past pedometer use were associated with reduced dropout during the prerandomization run-in period. Understanding these characteristics is important for identifying higher-risk participants, and implementing additional help strategies may be useful for reducing dropout.

Trial registration: NCT01280812; (Archived by WebCite at

Keywords: eligibility; mHealth; mobile phone; pedometer; randomized controlled trial; run-in period.

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