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BACKGROUND: To address the obesity epidemic, there is a need for novel paradigms, including those that address the timing of eating and sleep in relation to circadian rhythms. Electronic health records (EHRs) are an efficient way to identify potentially eligible participants for health research studies. Mobile health (mHealth) apps offer available and convenient data collection of health behaviors, such as timing of eating and sleep.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this descriptive analysis was to report on recruitment, retention, and app use from a 6-month cohort study using a mobile app called Daily24.

METHODS: Using an EHR query, adult patients from three health care systems in the PaTH clinical research network were identified as potentially eligible, invited electronically to participate, and instructed to download and use the Daily24 mobile app, which focuses on eating and sleep timing. Online surveys were completed at baseline and 4 months. We described app use and identified predictors of app use, defined as 1 or more days of use, versus nonuse and usage categories (ie, immediate, consistent, and sustained) using multivariate regression analyses.

RESULTS: Of 70,661 patients who were sent research invitations, 1021 (1.44%) completed electronic consent forms and online baseline surveys; 4 withdrew, leaving a total of 1017 participants in the analytic sample. A total of 53.79% (n=547) of the participants were app users and, of those, 75.3% (n=412), 50.1% (n=274), and 25.4% (n=139) were immediate, consistent, and sustained users, respectively. Median app use was 28 (IQR 7-75) days over 6 months. Younger age, White race, higher educational level, higher income, having no children younger than 18 years, and having used 1 to 5 health apps significantly predicted app use (vs nonuse) in adjusted models. Older age and lower BMI predicted early, consistent, and sustained use. About half (532/1017, 52.31%) of the participants completed the 4-month online surveys. A total of 33.5% (183/547), 29.3% (157/536), and 27.1% (143/527) of app users were still using the app for at least 2 days per month during months 4, 5, and 6 of the study, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: EHR recruitment offers an efficient (ie, high reach, low touch, and minimal participant burden) approach to recruiting participants from health care settings into mHealth research. Efforts to recruit and retain less engaged subgroups are needed to collect more generalizable data. Additionally, future app iterations should include more evidence-based features to increase participant use.

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Journal of Medical Internet Research





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This article was published in Journal of Medical Internet Research, Volume 24, Issue 6.

The published version is available at

Copyright © 2022 Janelle W Coughlin, Lindsay M Martin, Di Zhao, Attia Goheer, Thomas B Woolf, Katherine Holzhauer, Harold P Lehmann, Michelle R Lent, Kathleen M McTigue, Jeanne M Clark, Wendy L Bennett. CC BY 4.0.