Duke launches Mobile App Gateway

New resource connects research community to mobile technology and development

October 27, 2017

In October, over 150 researchers, developers, staff, and students from across Duke came together to launch the Duke Mobile App Gateway (MAG), a new resource that connects Duke researchers and clinicians with the tools, resources, and knowledge they need to engage patients and study participants using mobile technology. This new single-entry point for developing mobile health apps at Duke is funded by the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and involves partners across Duke.

After a brief introduction of services provided by MAG, representatives from several high-profile apps developed at Duke gave “lightning presentations,” sharing insights from their projects in ten minutes or less. Speakers included Guillermo Sapiro, PhD, from the Autism and Beyond team; Callie Berkowitz and Jamie Daniel, with the DIHI Cancer Distress Coach project; Chuck Scales, MD who’s studying reduction of kidney stones with Bluetooth enabled water bottles; Lee Hartsell, MD, MPH, who led the creation of MS Mosaic; and Dori Steinberg, PhD, RD, from the Duke Global Digital Health Science Center who spoke about successful obesity treatments with digital interactions with study participants.

The lightning talks were a hit with attendees. One was excited to learn about apps that have already been successfully developed and used in the research or clinical space at Duke, including the Cancer Distress Coach app and the MS Mosaic app. For others, the insights sparked ideas for future apps.

One of the most exciting offerings from the Mobile App Gateway is the ability to create direct-to-patient mobile research apps through Medable. Duke is partnering with Medable to create affordable ResearchKit apps for $11,000 each. Ten such licenses are available to researchers at Duke. The cost includes support from the MAG team, help using the platform, navigation of central office requirements, ethical considerations, branding, and more. MAG has hosted successful workshops on campus for interested researchers, and plans to host more later in the year.

After hearing from Medable at the launch, one participant shared that she enjoyed learning about some principles of research app development: keeping the participants involved by ensuring that the app is engaging and easy to use, and always designing tasks to be short.  Another participant mentioned that she was excited about the capabilities of the DIHI Rapid Health App Prototyping service, which highlighted student developers who can create mobile app prototypes. One example included the use of geofencing to identify when study participants are at the hospital and allows them to notify the research team and share information about their treatment if desired.

During his closing remarks, Adrian Hernandez, MD, MHS, Vice Dean for Clinical Research pointed out that two-thirds of Americans already use an app to understand or track some aspect of their health. He noted that the research community has the capability to receive and share massive amounts of health data through mobile technology. According to him, the question is now, “How do we use this technology to engage participants?” He stated, “Duke has the resources and opportunity to lead the way and set the norm for what mobile technology in health research means for everyone.” Hernandez thanked the Mobile App Gateway staff for sharing and developing so many resources for the Duke community and closed the event with a valediction to “Go forth and create something new and great!”  

The program ended with “curbside consultations” with MAG staff for researchers to talk through potential projects and learn how to engage with the MAG. Attendees also had the opportunity to consult with developers from seven local software development agencies to share ideas and discuss opportunities to collaborate.

Researchers and staff who are interested in working with MAG begin by scheduling a consultation with a senior advisor who can help them scope out their project, find funding and development talent, and connect with relevant Duke resources. Learn more about MAG services here or request a consultation here.