Cost and Effort Considerations for the Development of Intervention Studies Using Mobile Health Platforms: Pragmatic Case Study

Dan Thorpe, John Fouyaxis, Jessica M. Lipschitz, Amy Nielson, Wenhao Li, Susan A. Murphy, Niranjan Bidargaddi

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Background: The research marketplace has seen a flood of open-source or commercial mobile health (mHealth) platforms that can collect and use user data in real time. However, there is a lack of practical literature on how these platforms are developed, integrated into study designs, and adopted, including important information around cost and effort considerations. Objective: We intend to build critical literacy in the clinician-researcher readership into the cost, effort, and processes involved in developing and operationalizing an mHealth platform, focusing on Intui, an mHealth platform that we developed. Methods: We describe the development of the Intui mHealth platform and general principles of its operationalization across sites. Results: We provide a worked example in the form of a case study. Intui was operationalized in the design of a behavioral activation intervention in collaboration with a mental health service provider. We describe the design specifications of the study site, the developed software, and the cost and effort required to build the final product. Conclusions: Study designs, researcher needs, and technical considerations can impact effort and costs associated with the use of mHealth platforms. Greater transparency from platform developers about the impact of these factors on practical considerations relevant to end users such as clinician-researchers is crucial to increasing critical literacy around mHealth, thereby aiding in the widespread use of these potentially beneficial technologies and building clinician confidence in these tools.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere29988
Number of pages10
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • behavioral activation
  • digital health
  • ecological momentary assessment
  • ecological momentary intervention
  • health informatics
  • human computer interaction
  • interventional research
  • mobile health
  • mobile health costs


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