Best practices for collecting repeated measures data using text messages

Shimoni, Noa’a; Nippita, Siripanth; Castaño, Paula M.

Researchers and clinicians use text messages to collect data with the advantage of real time capture when compared with standard data collection methods. This article reviews project setup and management for successfully collecting patient-reported data through text messages.

We review our experience enrolling over 2600 participants in six clinical trials that used text messages to relay information or collect data. We also reviewed the literature on text messages used for repeated data collection. We classify recommendations according to common themes: the text message, the data submitted and the phone used.

We present lessons learned and discuss how to create text message content, select a data collection platform with practical features, manage the data thoughtfully and consistently, and work with patients, participants and their phones to protect privacy. Researchers and clinicians should design text messages to include short, simple prompts and answer choices. They should decide whether and when to send reminders if participants do not respond and set parameters regarding when and how often to contact patients for missing data. Data collection platforms send, receive, and store messages. They can validate responses and send error messages. Researchers should develop a protocol to append and correct data in order to improve consistency with data handling. At the time of enrollment, researchers should ensure that participants can receive and respond to messages. Researchers should address privacy concerns and plan for service interruptions by obtaining alternate participant contact information and providing participants with a backup data collection method.

Careful planning and execution can reward clinicians and investigators with complete, timely and accurate data sets.


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Also Published In

BMC Medical Research Methodology

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Published Here
September 22, 2023


Electronic data capture, Mobile phone, Text messaging, Research methodology, Data collection