Influence of ecological momentary assessment study design features on reported willingness to participate and perceptions of potential research studies: an experimental study

BMJ Open. 2021 Jul 30;11(7):e049154. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-049154.


OBJECTIVE: Intensive ambulatory assessment, such as ecological momentary assessment (EMA), is increasingly used to capture naturalistic patient-reported outcomes. EMA design features (eg, study duration, prompt frequency) vary widely between studies, but it is not known if such design decisions influence potential subjects’ willingness to participate in a study. We hypothesise that intentions to participate will be higher in studies that are less burdensome and have higher reward (eg, compensation).

DESIGN: This experimental study examined if four EMA study design features (study duration, prompt frequency, prompt length, compensation) affected intentions to participate in a hypothetical EMA study and participation appraisals (eg, participation effort). Participants were randomly assigned to conditions (reflecting a fully crossed design of the four features, each with two levels). Each condition presented a vignette describing a study (each a unique combination of design features) and asked them to report on likelihood of participating and study appraisals.

PARTICIPANTS: A convenience sample of participants (n=600; 46% female, Mage=40.39) were recruited using an online service.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: Primary outcomes were willingness to participate (No/Yes) and reported participation likelihood (0-100 scale). Secondary outcomes included appraisals of interest, enjoyment, effort, and if the study makes a valuable contribution to science.

RESULTS: We examined main effects, and two-way interactions for participation likelihood, across study design features. Overall, reported willingness to participate and participation likelihood were high (89%, M=83.90, respectively). Shorter study duration, fewer prompts, shorter prompts and higher compensation increased willingness to participate and elicited higher participation likelihood (each associated with ~6%-8% increases). Findings suggested that more intensive studies were judged as somewhat less interesting and enjoyable, and requiring more effort.

CONCLUSION: Hypotheses were generally supported. Design features influence behavioural intentions to participate in, and appraisals of, EMA studies. Implications for participant recruitment and generalisability, and remaining research questions, are discussed.

PMID:34330860 | DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2021-049154