Development of an Electronic Data Collection System to Support a Large-Scale HIV Behavioral Intervention Trial: Protocol for an Electronic Data Collection System

JMIR Res Protoc. 2018 Dec 14;7(12):e10777. doi: 10.2196/10777.


Background: Advancing technology has increased functionality and permitted more complex study designs for behavioral interventions. Investigators need to keep pace with these technological advances for electronic data capture (EDC) systems to be appropriately executed and utilized at full capacity in research settings. Mobile technology allows EDC systems to collect near real-time data from study participants, deliver intervention directly to participants' mobile devices, monitor staff activity, and facilitate near real-time decision making during study implementation.

Objective: This paper presents the infrastructure of an EDC system designed to support a multisite HIV biobehavioral intervention trial in Los Angeles and New Orleans: the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network "Comprehensive Adolescent Research & Engagement Studies" (ATN CARES). We provide an overview of how multiple EDC functions can be integrated into a single EDC system to support large-scale intervention trials.

Methods: The CARES EDC system is designed to monitor and document multiple study functions, including, screening, recruitment, retention, intervention delivery, and outcome assessment. Text messaging (short message service, SMS) and nearly all data collection are supported by the EDC system. The system functions on mobile phones, tablets, and Web browsers.

Results: ATN CARES is enrolling study participants and collecting baseline and follow-up data through the EDC system. Besides data collection, the EDC system is being used to generate multiple reports that inform recruitment planning, budgeting, intervention quality, and field staff supervision. The system is supporting both incoming and outgoing text messages (SMS) and offers high-level data security. Intervention design details are also influenced by EDC system platform capabilities and constraints. Challenges of using EDC systems are addressed through programming updates and training on how to improve data quality.

Conclusions: There are three key considerations in the development of an EDC system for an intervention trial. First, it needs to be decided whether the flexibility provided by the development of a study-specific, in-house EDC system is needed relative to the utilization of an existing commercial platform that requires less in-house programming expertise. Second, a single EDC system may not provide all functionality. ATN CARES is using a main EDC system for data collection, text messaging (SMS) interventions, and case management and a separate Web-based platform to support an online peer support intervention. Decisions need to be made regarding the functionality that is crucial for the EDC system to handle and what functionality can be handled by other systems. Third, data security is a priority but needs to be balanced with the need for flexible intervention delivery. For example, ATN CARES is delivering text messages (SMS) to study participants' mobile phones. EDC data security protocols should be developed under guidance from security experts and with formative consulting with the target study population as to their perceptions and needs.

International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/10777.

Keywords: HIV prevention and treatment; ecological momentary intervention; electronic data capture; mHealth; mobile phone; text messaging.