Faculty Publications

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JMIR mHealth and uHealth



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mHealth, patient-generated health data, self-management, chronic pain, qualitative research, N-of-1 trials, mobile phones


Health Services Research | Medicine and Health Sciences | Nursing


Background: N-of-1 (individual comparison) trials are a promising approach for comparing the effectiveness of 2 or more treatments for individual patients; yet, few studies have qualitatively examined how patients use and make sense of their own patient-generated health data (PGHD) in the context of N-of-1 trials. Objective: The objective of our study was to explore chronic pain patients’ perceptions about the PGHD they compiled while comparing 2 chronic pain treatments and tracking their symptoms using a smartphone N-of-1 app in collaboration with their clinicians. Methods: Semistructured interviews were recorded with 33 patients, a consecutive subset of the intervention group in a primary study testing the feasibility and effectiveness of the Trialist N-of-1 app. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, and a descriptive thematic analysis was completed. Results: Patients were enthusiastic about recording and accessing their own data. They valued sharing data with clinicians but also used their data independently. Conclusions: N-of-1 trials remain a promising approach to evidence-based decision making. Patients appear to value their roles as trial participants but place as much or more importance on the independent use of trial data as on comparative effectiveness results. Future efforts to design patient-centered N-of-1 trials might consider adaptable designs that maximize patient flexibility and autonomy while preserving a collaborative role with clinicians and researchers.


© Robin L Whitney, Deborah H Ward, Maria T. Marois, Christopher H. Schmid, Ida Sim, Richard L Kravitz. Originally published in JMIR Mhealth and Uhealth, Volume 6, Issue 10 (http://mhealth.jmir.org), 11.10.2018. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR mhealth and uhealth, is properly cited. The original publication of this article can be found here. SJSU users: use the following link to login and access the article via SJSU databases.