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Research: Very Few Apps for That!

November 12016

By Tom Stibolt, MD, Mobile Musings Column Editor

We have looked at apps for physicians and other care providers as well as applications for patients. We now turn to apps for medical researchers. At present, this is an underserved area. There are a few applications available. Hopefully more are coming.

We begin with medical information apps. These include UpToDate, Medscape, ClinicalKey, and First Consult among a longer list. We have looked at these in the past and I mention them as they are an excellent source of current information about various diseases. It may be a bit of a stretch to claim they are research tools.

Next are apps that help find current research studies. Clincal Research Trials (available for iOS) searches for both federally and privately funded trials in the United States. It was added to the Apple app store in early 2015 and is available for free. There are currently no reviews posted for it., the National Library of Medicine federally funded clinical trials repository, also has a free mobile app for iOS.

There are several apps available from pharmaceutical companies and universities that help researchers see what trials might be available from them. Entering the search term “clinical trials” in the Apple app store will list many of these. The list also includes the UK Clinical Trials Gateway provided by the British Department of Health.

Apple believes its ResearchKit for iOS will make trials involving patients using their smart devices for providing large amounts of data an important research area. Work is ongoing but so far, it appears most of the apps developed are patient centered self-help apps. I will be interested to see if any large research studies using this tool are developed.

To help with patient randomization in clinical trials there is Randomizer for Clinical Trials. It is designed for investigators, study groups, and investigation centers, looking for a practical, intuitive and reliable randomization system. The app claims to be ideal for phase I and II monocentric studies or multicentric studies and is capable of balancing randomization by center. It costs $9.99 but a lite version is available for free that does not support the entire range of functionality such as multicentric studies.

Papers 3 is a reference manager that helps users collect and curate the research material needed for publications. The app automatically renames and organizes documents per user preferences. When importing references, Papers automatically downloads the full text article if the user has access to it. The app allows users to highlight, underline, strike through and add sticky notes. One can also switch among different documents with tabs. When citing references, the app can format them in one of 7,000+ citation styles. The app works with a desktop/laptop program as well and keeps all information synchronized among devices. The program supports Windows and Mac OS desktops and laptops. The app is iOS only. An individual license is $79.

There are a few vendors that offer to develop apps to increase patient engagement once enrolled in trials, but the efficacy and participant interest in this type of approach needs to be studied.


Editor’s note: The ATS does not endorse any of the programs or products mentioned in this column.

Last Reviewed: September 2017