Using e-technologies in clinical trials

Contemp Clin Trials. 2015 Nov;45(Pt A):41-54. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2015.07.007. Epub 2015 Jul 12.


Clinical trials have been slow to incorporate e-technology (digital and electronic technology that utilizes mobile devices or the Internet) into the design and execution of studies. In the meantime, individuals and corporations are relying more on electronic platforms and most have incorporated such technology into their daily lives. This paper provides a general overview of the use of e-technologies in clinical trials research, specifically within the last decade, marked by rapid growth of mobile and Internet-based tools. Benefits of and challenges to the use of e-technologies in data collection, recruitment and retention, delivery of interventions, and dissemination are provided, as well as a description of the current status of regulatory oversight of e-technologies in clinical trials research. As an example of ways in which e-technologies can be used for intervention delivery, a summary of e-technologies for treatment of substance use disorders is presented. Using e-technologies to design and implement clinical trials has the potential to reach a wide audience, making trials more efficient while also reducing costs; however, researchers should be cautious when adopting these tools given the many challenges in using new technologies, as well as threats to participant privacy/confidentiality. Challenges of using e-technologies can be overcome with careful planning, useful partnerships, and forethought. The role of web- and smartphone-based applications is expanding, and the increasing use of those platforms by scientists and the public alike make them tools that cannot be ignored.

Keywords: Apps; Clinical trials; E-technology; Internet; Smartphones; Social media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / economics
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / instrumentation*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Confidentiality
  • Data Accuracy
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods
  • Internet*
  • Mobile Applications
  • Patient Selection
  • Research Design*
  • Smartphone
  • Social Networking
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy