Leveraging Mobile Technology and Social Media in Behavioural Research

24-26th August, 2014, Innsbruck, Austria.

The workshop was facilitated by: Dr. Sherry Pagoto (University of Massachusetts, MA), Dr. Kristin Schneider (Rosalind Franklin University, IL)

Presentation files from the workshop are available below.

Day 1: Mobile Health

Commercial apps and the evidence: Guide for Providers  In this section, we aim to provide practical guidance to healthcare providers on evaluating and selecting health behavior apps that are already publically available. We will discuss a practical method to search for and select apps for clinical use, elaborate on practical recommendations for examining app content, function, and interaction, and provide an illustrative, step-by-step example using a case study of a patient seeking dietary assistance.

Commercial apps and the evidence:  Guide for Researchers  We will discuss three ways to scientifically evaluate commercial (post-market) apps. The first is a method for establishing the validity or efficacy of an app by comparing its content and functionality against an accepted standard. The second involves prospectively studying existing apps that include prospective data collection. Finally, we review principles for evaluating usability and functionality. The challenges associated with evaluating commercial apps are discussed, including the careful selection of the “best of breed.”

Designing studies that develop and test novel apps:   We will discuss the process of development and usability testing, feasibility, and development of mobile apps for behavior change using two of our app research projects as examples.


Usability Testing:   To learn the process of usability testing, participants will conduct usability testing on pre-selected apps that vary in usability. We will review the steps of requirements gathering through paper prototypes, co-design sessions, iterative testing, “think aloud” protocols, and the Systems Usability Scale.

Day 2:  Social media

What is social media?   We will explore the various forms of social media, usage worldwide, demographics of users, and the presence of healthcare, science, and medicine in social media.

Why health researchers should have a social media presence

Academics more than ever need to make the public and key stakeholders aware of their work.  This seminar is for faculty, students, administrators, and academic staff and covers how engagement in social media can benefit the academic career and increase one’s impact. Using social media professionally will also make the user aware of the ways it is being used by patients, healthcare systems, and healthcare professionals which is necessary to stimulate research ideas. Successful examples will be discussed as well as the time and effort necessary to build social media capital using various modalities. Participants do not need a background in social media to participate.

Social Media in Health Research

The use of online social networks has become ubiquitous in recent years, which means we have new ways to interact socially and to disseminate information. The possibilities for health research are limitless. Patients are increasingly flocking to online social networks to learn more about their health conditions and interact with providers and other patients.  The phenomenon has been coined “peer-to-peer healthcare” by the Pew Research Center Internet and American Life Project, the group tracking the growth of this trend. This seminar is for faculty and students interested in leveraging online social networks for health research.  Participants will learn of the different ways social media has been leveraged to measure, understand and intervene upon disease and health behavior.  Some familiarity with social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) is strongly suggested (but not mandatory) for participation in this seminar.


How to Get Started on Social Media  Participants will learn how to develop a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Linked In, and blogs.  Participants will identify their social media goals and be given recommendations regarding the social media outlet that best matches their goals. During the workshop, participants will open a Twitter account, learn to use its features, find relevant information, develop a base of followers, and produce content.  Participants will also learn where they can submit guest blog posts for maximal visibility and tips for writing blog posts.  Time management strategies will be discussed.  Participants should be equipped with computers and wifi for this hands-on workshop.  No previous experience with social media is necessary for this workshop.

Day 3: Social Media

Methodological Issues in Social Media Research   We will discuss how the various forms of social media can be used in recruitment, retention, intervention delivery, and observational research. Ethical issues will be reviewed as well as the challenges to conducting this research.

Beyond prevention and intervention: increasing well-being