From left: Josie Elias and Cassandra Lee display the Brigham Mobile Research Platform.

Today, people use their phones for almost everything: ordering food, organizing finances or scheduling out their day-to-day tasks. Mobile devices are becoming the most used tool in people’s lives. But there is one area where mobile devices may be underused: research studies.

It can be challenging to get accurate, real-time data when conducting a population-based research study in a hospital or lab setting. Many studies depend on patient self-reporting, which in turn relies on a patient’s ability to recall details precisely and accurately. Using a phone as a data-collection tool could give the patient the ability to log their symptoms, activities and more in real time. But secure, research-oriented tools for doing so can be hard to find.

Yvonne Lee, MD, director of Pain Research in the Division of Rheumatology, has experienced these challenges, particularly in getting daily data from patients in a secure, HIPAA-compliant fashion for the team’s research projects on rheumatoid arthritis.

“We really struggled,” said Lee. “We wanted to build an app with patients’ input, but we couldn’t find a development partner.”

Recognizing that this was likely a challenge for other BWH researchers as well, Lee connected with the Brigham Digital Innovation Hub (iHub) to consider creating a platform through which patients could securely share data and researchers could access that data and better connect with study participants.

“Clinicians and researchers wanted a platform that would give them both security and flexibility. We wanted to help them innovate,” said Josie Elias, program manager of Digital Health Innovation at iHub. “Together, we created a platform that would offer them the basic tools and standard functions needed to create and launch an app tailored to their study’s needs.”

Known as the Brigham Mobile Research Platform, this tool is now available to researchers across the hospital.

Digital Connections

The platform comprises a suite of tools that help speed up the process for initiating new research app-based protocols, recruiting and retaining participants, and simplifying data collection, analytics and research operations. It serves as a foundation for quickly building specialized apps for individual projects, giving researchers and clinicians more time to focus on the study at hand.

“Adding onto the framework and components of the platform, instead of starting at ‘square one,’ can eliminate cost and time,” Elias said.

In addition, it provides an administrative dashboard for tracking participant progress, status, interactions and results, and it can also serve as a communication tool between research staff and study participants.

Throughout its development, the platform was supported by hospital and Partners teams and leadership. Because of this, it is approved for use at the Brigham – meeting HIPAA, Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements and marketing standards.

Bob Rudin, information scientist at the RAND Corporation, built the Asthma Symptom Monitoring App using the Brigham Mobile Research Platform. Rudin’s app, currently being used for a research study at the Partners Asthma Clinic, allows clinicians to integrate patient-reported outcomes between visits into routine care.

“The dashboard is used by our care management team to view patients’ activity, as well as send notifications via email, treating it somewhat like a phone call,” Rudin said.

To learn more about using the Brigham Mobile Research Platform for a research study, contact iHub at