Attitudes and Expectations of Clinical Research Participants Toward Digital Health and Mobile Dietary Assessment Tools: Cross-Sectional Survey Study

Front Digit Health. 2022 Mar 9:4:794908. doi: 10.3389/fdgth.2022.794908. eCollection 2022.


Background: The adoption of health technologies is key to empower research participants and collect quality data. However, the acceptance of health technologies is usually evaluated in patients or healthcare practitioners, but not in clinical research participants.

Methods: A 27-item online questionnaire was provided to the 11,695 members of a nutrition clinical research participant database from the Nantes area (France), to assess (1) participants' social and demography parameters, (2) equipment and usage of health apps and devices, (3) expectations in research setting and (4) opinion about the future of clinical research. Each item was described using frequency and percentage overall and by age classes. A global proportion comparison was performed using chi-square or Fisher-exact tests.

Results: A total of 1529 respondents (81.0% women, 19.0% men) completed the survey. Main uses of health apps included physical activity tracking (54.7%, age-related group difference, p < 0.001) and food quality assessment (45.7%, unrelated to age groups). Overall, 20.4% of respondents declared owning a connected wristband or watch. Most participants (93.8%) expected the use of connected devices in research. However, protection of personal data (37.5%), reliability (35.5%) and skilled use of devices (28.5%) were perceived as the main barriers. Most participants (93.3%) would agree to track their food intake using a mobile app, and 80.5% would complete it for at least a week while taking part in a clinical study. Only 13.2% would devote more than 10 min per meal to such record. A majority (60.4%) of respondents would accept to share their social media posts in an anonymous way and most (82.2%) of them would accept to interact with a chatbot for research purposes.

Conclusions: Our cross-sectional study suggests that clinical study participants are enthusiastic about all forms of digital health technologies and participant-centered studies but remain concerned about the use of personal data. Repeated assessments are suggested to evaluate the research participant's interest in technologies following the increase in use and demand for innovative health services during the pandemic of COVID-19.

Keywords: chatbots; clinical operations; clinical research; dietary assessment tools; digital health; patient centricity; social media; survey studies.