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Preview: Journal of Medical Internet Research

Journal of Medical Internet Research

The leading peer-reviewed journal for digital medicine, and health & healthcare in the Internet age


Bioimpedance Alerts from Cardiovascular Implantable Electronic Devices: Observational Study of Diagnostic Relevance and Clinical Outcomes


Background: The use of implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices is expanding in the treatment of heart failure. Most of the current devices are equipped with remote monitoring functions, including bioimpedance for fluid status monitoring. The question remains whether bioimpedance measurements positively impact clinical outcome. Objective: The aim of this study was to provide a comprehensive overview of the clinical interventions taken based on remote bioimpedance monitoring alerts and their impact on clinical outcome. Methods: This is a single-center observational study of consecutive ICD and CRT patients (n=282) participating in protocol-driven remote follow-up. Bioimpedance alerts were analyzed with subsequently triggered interventions. Results: A total of 55.0% (155/282) of patients had an ICD or CRT device equipped with a remote bioimpedance algorithm. During 34 (SD 12) months of follow-up, 1751 remote monitoring alarm notifications were received (2.2 per patient-year of follow-up), comprising 2096 unique alerts (2.6 per patient-year of follow-up). Since 591 (28.2%) of all incoming alerts were bioimpedance-related, patients with an ICD or CRT including a bioimpedance algorithm had significantly more alerts (3.4 versus 1.8 alerts per patient-year of follow-up, P<.001). Bioimpedance-only alerts resulted in a phone contact in 91.0% (498/547) of cases, which triggered an actual intervention in 15.9% (87/547) of cases, since in 75.1% (411/547) of cases reenforcing heart failure education sufficed. Overall survival was lower in patients with a cardiovascular implantable electronic device with a bioimpedance algorithm; however, this difference was driven by differences in baseline characteristics (adjusted hazard ratio of 2.118, 95% CI 0.845-5.791). No significant differences between both groups were observed in terms of the number of follow-up visits in the outpatient heart failure clinic, the number of hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of heart failure, or mean length of hospital stay. Conclusions: Bioimpedance-only alerts constituted a substantial amount of incoming alerts when turned on during remote follow-up and triggered an additional intervention in only 16% of cases since in 75% of cases, providing general heart failure education sufficed. The high frequency of heart failure education that was provided could have contributed to fewer heart failure–related hospitalizations despite significant differences in baseline characteristics. (image)

Attrition from Web-Based Cognitive Testing: A Repeated Measures Comparison of Gamification Techniques


Background: The prospect of assessing cognition longitudinally and remotely is attractive to researchers, health practitioners, and pharmaceutical companies alike. However, such repeated testing regimes place a considerable burden on participants, and with cognitive tasks typically being regarded as effortful and unengaging, these studies may experience high levels of participant attrition. One potential solution is to gamify these tasks to make them more engaging: increasing participant willingness to take part and reducing attrition. However, such an approach must balance task validity with the introduction of entertaining gamelike elements. Objective: This study aims to investigate the effects of gamelike features on participant attrition using a between-subjects, longitudinal Web-based testing study. Methods: We used three variants of a common cognitive task, the Stop Signal Task (SST), with a single gamelike feature in each: one variant where points were rewarded for performing optimally; another where the task was given a graphical theme; and a third variant, which was a standard SST and served as a control condition. Participants completed four compulsory test sessions over 4 consecutive days before entering a 6-day voluntary testing period where they faced a daily decision to either drop out or continue taking part. Participants were paid for each session they completed. Results: A total of 482 participants signed up to take part in the study, with 265 completing the requisite four consecutive test sessions. No evidence of an effect of gamification on attrition was observed. A log-rank test showed no evidence of a difference in dropout rates between task variants (χ22=3.0, P=.22), and a one-way analysis of variance of the mean number of sessions completed per participant in each variant also showed no evidence of a difference (F2,262=1.534, P=.21, partial η2=0.012). Conclusions: Our findings raise doubts about the ability of gamification to reduce attrition from longitudinal cognitive testing studies. (image)

Using Facebook to Recruit Young Australian Men Into a Cross-Sectional Human Papillomavirus Study


Background: Young men can be difficult to engage in health research using traditional methods of recruitment. Social networking sites are increasingly being used to recruit participants into health research, due to their cost effectiveness, overall generalizability, and wide reach. Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility of using Facebook to recruit young Australian men into a human papillomavirus (HPV) prevalence study. Methods: We recruited male permanent residents of Australia, aged 18 to 35 years, into the HPV in Young Males (HYM) study through targeted advertising placed on Facebook. Consenting participants completed an online questionnaire and provided a self-collected penile swab for HPV DNA detection and genotyping. We compared sociodemographic characteristics of the study population with those of the general Australian male population, based on Australian 2011 census data. Results: Between February 2015 and February 2017, targeted Facebook advertisements reached 1,523,239 men, resulting in 41,811 clicks through to the study website, with 1072 (2.56%) converting to lodgment of an expression of interest. Of these, 681 (63.53%) provided written informed consent and 535 (78.6% of recruited participants) completed all the study requirements. Reasons for participating in the study included altruism, past history of HPV, gaining more knowledge about HPV or the vaccine, working in the health industry, and the monetary compensation. The average advertising cost per completed study participant was Aus $48. Compared with the census population, HYM study participants were more likely to be Australian born (P<.001), be from Victoria (P=.003) or the Australian Capital Territory (P=.004), reside in a major city (P<.001), and have completed undergraduate (P<.001) or postgraduate education (P<.001). HYM study participants were less likely to report being a current smoker (P=.03), but were more likely to identify as bisexual or homosexual (294/529, 55.6%, P<.001), than the general population. Conclusions: Using Facebook is a feasible and efficient strategy for the recruitment of men from across Australia for HPV testing. This method could be used for monitoring the impact of HPV vaccination. Additional targeting may achieve a sample that is broadly demographically representative of the Australian population. Future research should explore how the sexual risk behavior characteristics of populations recruited through Facebook compare with those of traditional recruitment methods. (image)

Self-Guided Web-Based Interventions: Scoping Review on User Needs and the Potential of Embodied Conversational Agents to Address Them


Background: Web-based mental health interventions have evolved from innovative prototypes to evidence-based and clinically applied solutions for mental diseases such as depression and anxiety. Open-access, self-guided types of these solutions hold the promise of reaching and treating a large population at a reasonable cost. However, a considerable factor that currently hinders the effectiveness of these self-guided Web-based interventions is the high level of nonadherence. The absence of a human caregiver apparently has a negative effect on user adherence. It is unknown to what extent this human support can be handed over to the technology of the intervention to mitigate this negative effect. Objective: The first objective of this paper was to explore what is known in literature about what support a user needs to stay motivated and engaged in an electronic health (eHealth) intervention that requires repeated use. The second objective was to explore the current potential of embodied conversational agents (ECAs) to provide this support. Methods: This study reviews and interprets the available literature on (1) support within eHealth interventions that require repeated use and (2) the potential of ECAs by means of a scoping review. The rationale for choosing a scoping review is that the subject is broad, diverse, and largely unexplored. Themes for (1) and (2) were proposed based on grounded theory and mapped on each other to find relationships. Results: The results of the first part of this study suggest the presence of user needs that largely remain implicit and unaddressed. These support needs can be categorized as task-related support and emotion-related support. The results of the second part of this study suggest that ECAs are capable of engaging and motivating users of information technology applications in the domains of learning and behavioral change. Longitudinal studies must be conducted to determine under what circumstances ECAs can create and maintain a productive user relationship. Mapping the user needs on the ECAs’ capabilities suggests that different kinds of ECAs may provide different solutions for improving the adherence levels. Conclusions: Autonomous ECAs that do not respond to a user’s expressed emotion in real time but take on empathic roles may be sufficient to motivate users to some extent. It is unclear whether those types of ECAs are competent enough and create sufficient believability among users to address the user’s deeper needs for support and empathy. Responsive ECAs may offer a better solution. However, at present, most of these ECAs have difficulties to assess a user’s emotional state in real time during an open dialogue. By conducting future research with relationship theory–based ECAs, the added value of ECAs toward user needs can be better understood. (image)

Health-Seeking Influence Reflected by Online Health-Related Messages Received on Social Media: Cross-Sectional Survey


Background: Major social networking platforms, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, have become popular means through which people share health-related information, irrespective of whether messages disseminated through these channels are authentic. Objective: This study aims to describe the demographic characteristics of patients that may demonstrate their attitudes toward medical information shared on social media networks. Second, we address how information found through social media affects the way people deal with their health. Third, we examine whether patients initiate or alter/discontinue their medications based on information derived from social media. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey between April and June 2015 on patients attending outpatient clinics at King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Patients who used social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter) were included. We designed a questionnaire with closed-ended and multiple-choice questions to assess the type of social media platforms patients used and whether information received on these platforms influenced their health care decisions. We used chi-square test to establish the relationship between categorical variables. Results: Of the 442 patients who filled in the questionnaires, 401 used Facebook, WhatsApp, or Twitter. The majority of respondents (89.8%, 397/442) used WhatsApp, followed by Facebook (58.6%, 259/442) and Twitter (42.3%, 187/442). In most cases, respondents received health-related messages from WhatsApp and approximately 42.6% (171/401) reported ever stopping treatment as advised on a social media platform. A significantly higher proportion of patients without heart disease (P=.001) and obese persons (P=.01) checked the authenticity of information received on social media. Social media messages influenced decision making among patients without heart disease (P=.04). Respondents without heart disease (P=.001) and obese persons (P=.01) were more likely to discuss health-related information received on social media channels with a health care professional. A significant proportion of WhatsApp users reported that health-related information received on this platform influenced decisions regarding their family’s health care (P=.001). Respondents’ decisions regarding family health care were more likely to be influenced when they used two or all three types of platforms (P=.003). Conclusions: Health education in the digital era needs to be accurate, evidence-based, and regulated. As technologies continue to evolve, we must be equipped to face the challenges it brings with it. (image)

Patient Health Record Systems Scope and Functionalities: Literature Review and Future Directions


Background: A new generation of user-centric information systems is emerging in health care as patient health record (PHR) systems. These systems create a platform supporting the new vision of health services that empowers patients and enables patient-provider communication, with the goal of improving health outcomes and reducing costs. This evolution has generated new sets of data and capabilities, providing opportunities and challenges at the user, system, and industry levels. Objective: The objective of our study was to assess PHR data types and functionalities through a review of the literature to inform the health care informatics community, and to provide recommendations for PHR design, research, and practice. Methods: We conducted a review of the literature to assess PHR data types and functionalities. We searched PubMed, Embase, and MEDLINE databases from 1966 to 2015 for studies of PHRs, resulting in 1822 articles, from which we selected a total of 106 articles for a detailed review of PHR data content. Results: We present several key findings related to the scope and functionalities in PHR systems. We also present a functional taxonomy and chronological analysis of PHR data types and functionalities, to improve understanding and provide insights for future directions. Functional taxonomy analysis of the extracted data revealed the presence of new PHR data sources such as tracking devices and data types such as time-series data. Chronological data analysis showed an evolution of PHR system functionalities over time, from simple data access to data modification and, more recently, automated assessment, prediction, and recommendation. Conclusions: Efforts are needed to improve (1) PHR data quality through patient-centered user interface design and standardized patient-generated data guidelines, (2) data integrity through consolidation of various types and sources, (3) PHR functionality through application of new data analytics methods, and (4) metrics to evaluate clinical outcomes associated with automated PHR system use, and costs associated with PHR data storage and analytics. (image)

Reducing Symptom Distress in Patients With Advanced Cancer Using an e-Alert System for Caregivers: Pooled Analysis of Two Randomized Clinical Trials


Background: Symptom distress in patients toward the end of life can change rapidly. Family caregivers have the potential to help patients manage those symptoms, as well as their own stress, if they are equipped with the proper resources. Electronic health (eHealth) systems may be able to provide those resources. Very sick patients may not be able to use such systems themselves to report their symptoms but family caregivers could. Objective: The aim of this paper was to assess the effects on cancer patient symptom distress of an eHealth system that alerts clinicians to significant changes in the patient’s symptoms, as reported by a family caregiver. Methods: A pooled analysis from two randomized clinical trials (NCT00214162 and NCT00365963) compared outcomes at 12 months for two unblinded groups: a control group (Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System [CHESS]-Only) that gave caregivers access to CHESS, an online support system, and an experimental group (CHESS+CR [Clinician Report]), which also had CHESS but with a CR that automatically alerted clinicians if symptoms exceeded a predetermined threshold of severity. Participants were dyads (n=235) of patients with advanced lung, breast, or prostate cancer and their respective family caregivers from 5 oncology clinics in the United States of America. The proportion of improved patient threshold symptoms was compared between groups using area-under-the-curve analysis and binomial proportion tests. The proportion of threshold symptoms out of all reported symptoms was also examined. Results: When severe caregiver-reported symptoms were shared with clinicians, the symptoms were more likely to be subsequently reported as improved than when the symptoms were not shared with clinicians (P<.001). Fewer symptom reports were completed in the group of caregivers whose reports went to clinicians than in the CHESS-Only group (P<.001), perhaps because caregivers, knowing their reports might be sent to a doctor, feared they might be bothering the clinician. Conclusions: This study suggests that an eHealth system designed for caregivers that alerts clinicians to worrisome changes in patient health status may lead to reduced patient distress. Trial Registration: NCT00214162; (Archived by WebCite at and NCT00365963; (Archived by WebCite at (image)

Effectiveness of a Web 2.0 Intervention to Increase Physical Activity in Real-World Settings: Randomized Ecological Trial


Background: The translation of Web-based physical activity intervention research into the real world is lacking and becoming increasingly important. Objective: To compare usage and effectiveness, in real-world settings, of a traditional Web 1.0 Web-based physical activity intervention, providing limited interactivity, to a Web 2.0 Web-based physical activity intervention that includes interactive features, such as social networking (ie, status updates, online “friends,” and personalized profile pages), blogs, and Google Maps mash-ups. Methods: Adults spontaneously signing up for the freely available 10,000 Steps website were randomized to the 10,000 Steps website (Web 1.0) or the newly developed WALK 2.0 website (Web 2.0). Physical activity (Active Australia Survey), quality of life (RAND 36), and body mass index (BMI) were assessed at baseline, 3 months, and 12 months. Website usage was measured continuously. Analyses of covariance were used to assess change over time in continuous outcome measures. Multiple imputation was used to deal with missing data. Results: A total of 1328 participants completed baseline assessments. Only 3-month outcomes (224 completers) were analyzed due to high attrition at 12 months (77 completers). Web 2.0 group participants increased physical activity by 92.8 minutes per week more than those in the Web 1.0 group (95% CI 28.8-156.8; P=.005); their BMI values also decreased more (–1.03 kg/m2, 95% CI –1.65 to -0.41; P=.001). For quality of life, only the physical functioning domain score significantly improved more in the Web 2.0 group (3.6, 95% CI 1.7-5.5; P<.001). The time between the first and last visit to the website (3.57 vs 2.22 weeks; P<.001) and the mean number of days the website was visited (9.02 vs 5.71 days; P=.002) were significantly greater in the Web 2.0 group compared to the Web 1.0 group. The difference in time-to-nonusage attrition was not statistically significant between groups (Hazard Ratio=0.97, 95% CI 0.86-1.09; P=.59). Only 21.99% (292/1328) of participants (n=292 summed for both groups) were still using either website after 2 weeks and 6.55% (87/1328) were using either website after 10 weeks. Conclusions: The website that provided more interactive and social features was more effective in improving physical activity in real-world conditions. While the Web 2.0 website was visited significantly more, both groups nevertheless displayed high nonusage attrition and low intervention engagement. More research is needed to examine the external validity and generalizability of Web-based physical activity interventions. Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12611000253909; /Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=336588&isReview=true (Archived by WebCite at 2HxD) (image)

Tailored Web-Based Interventions for Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis


Background: Efforts have multiplied in the past decade to underline the importance of pain management. For both acute and chronic pain management, various barriers generate considerable treatment accessibility issues, thereby providing an opportunity for alternative intervention formats to be implemented. Several systematic reviews on Web-based interventions with a large emphasis on chronic pain and cognitive behavioral therapy have been recently conducted to explore the influence of these interventions on pain management However, to our knowledge, the specific contribution of tailored Web-based interventions for pain management has not been described and their effect on pain has not been evaluated. Objective: The primary aim of this systematic review was to answer the following research question: What is the effect of tailored Web-based pain management interventions for adults on pain intensity compared with usual care, face-to-face interventions, and standardized Web-based interventions? A secondary aim was to examine the effects of these interventions on physical and psychological functions. Methods: We conducted a systematic review of articles published from January 2000 to December 2015. We used the DerSimonian-Laird random effects models with 95% confidence intervals to calculate effect estimates for all analyses. We calculated standardized mean differences from extracted means and standard deviations, as outcome variables were measured on different continuous scales. We evaluated 5 different outcomes: pain intensity (primary outcome), pain-related disability, anxiety, depression, and pain catastrophizing. We assessed effects according to 3 time intervals: short term (<1 month), medium term (1-6 months), and long term (6-12 months). Results: After full-text review, we excluded 31 articles, resulting in 17 eligible studies. Only 1 study concerned acute pain and was removed from the meta-analysis, resulting in 16 studies available for quantitative assessment. Compared with standard care or a waiting list, tailored Web-based intervention showed benefits immediately after, with small effect sizes (<0.40) for pain intensity (10 randomized controlled trials [RCTs], n=1310, P=.003) and pain-related disability (6 RCTs, n=953, P<.001). No other improvements were observed at follow-up in the medium and long terms. Compared with the active control group, no improvements were found for the primary outcome (pain intensity) or any of the outcomes except for a small effect size on pain catastrophizing (2 RCTs, n=333, P<.001) immediately after the intervention. Conclusions: Tailored Web-based interventions did not prove to be more efficacious than standardized Web-based interventions in terms of pain intensity, pain-related disability, anxiety, and depression. An interesting finding was that some efficacy was shown on pain catastrophizing compared with active control interventions. Considering the diversity of approaches used in tailored Web-based interventions for chronic pain management, their efficacy is yet to be explored. Moreover, their contribution to acute pain management is embryonic. Trial Registration: International prospective register of systematic reviews (PROSPERO): CRD42015027669; (Archived by WebCite at http://www. (image)

Is Connected Health Contributing to a Healthier Population?


Connected health tools, including mobile phones, incorporate various functions that capture events, direct actions, and make informed decisions based on complex sources of data. Connected health, a term recently proposed by some academics and industry, refers to the development, testing, and integration of smart technology tools into health care. Through these means, connected health creates interconnectivity across various environments, profoundly changing the way we learn, self-regulate, and communicate with one another. In health care, mobile phones enable more precise diagnostics, personalized health recommendations that enhance patient experiences and outcomes while containing health care costs. However, for connected health to achieve its full potential, issues must be addressed pertaining to active engagement in use, privacy, security, and quality, as well as the development of evidence-based guidelines. This commentary discusses these key challenges and explores the promise of connected health, specifically eHealth and mHealth. Anchored within the context of cancer, the authors’ area of expertise, the ideas put forward can readily be applied to other health-related disciplines. (image)