Smartphone training improves clinical trial participation in elderly populations

Basic smartphone training could improve rates of engagement in groups of clinical trial participants not proficient in technology, including elderly individuals, according to a study published April 26 in JMIR Human Factors.

In this study, researchers examined the effects of basic training in smartphone technology in older adults. These patients, who were involved in a clinical trial evaluating the feasibility of using smartphones to monitor and detect falls, used an app for device syncing, data uploads and checking system status. Researchers looked at how basic technology training could improve user experience and utilization.

“We suspected that unfamiliarity with smartphones and the specific demands of interaction with a smartphone, particularly the unique touch screen interactions required, may have led to poor usability outcomes,” wrote first author Richard Harte, PhD, and colleagues. “Effective training could provide a complete novice with a better chance of adopting the technology, thereby increasing the potential effectiveness of smartphone-based mHealth and connected health interventions for that person.”


All participants in the study received training for the app, but half also received extra instruction on using basic smartphone functions like making calls and sending texts. Results showed the extra training groups performed better in the first three days. They also noted differences in the number of cues and errors committed in both groups.

“Supplementary basic smartphone training may be critical in trials where a smartphone app–based system for health intervention purposes is being introduced to a population that is not proficient with technology,” concluded Harte and colleagues. “This training could prevent early technology rejection and increase the engagement of older participants and their overall user experience with the system.”