Drexel University

The WELL Center at Drexel University Streamlines their Process for Conducting Research

In order to conduct two of their research studies more efficiently, the WELL Center at Drexel University enlisted the help of FEST. The WELL Center’s mission is to decrease the prevalence of obesity, poor diet, sedentariness and disordered eating. 70% of people in the United States are overweight or obese, while 50% are considered sedentary.

The Challenge

Research study coordinators at the WELL Center were inundated with spreadsheets as they struggled to orchestrate activities between participants and clinicians. In addition to using the spreadsheets, they needed to toggle between different systems to send emails and text messages.

FEST created a research portal that allowed the WELL Center to address these challenges. Their platform is currently being used in Project Step, which is a Fitbit-based program for promoting physical activity. The WELL Center is also using a modified version of the portal for another project.

Research Task Centralization

Using FEST’s portal, research tasks can be administered from one place. Participants can be assigned and reassigned to a study group and associated with multiple clinicians—all without the use of the spreadsheets that plagued the previous manual process.

Without leaving the portal, coordinators and clinicians can communicate with participants. The portal allows messages to be sent via phone texts and emails.

Intervention appointments can also be scheduled automatically. This is possible because clinicians’ availability times, participants’ availability times, and intervention lengths are all inputted into the portal.

FEST built these portal features using Microsoft .NET, Microsoft Azure, and Microsoft SQL Server. They also integrated functionality from other vendors by calling their APIs. Fitbit provides activity, weight, and sleep data; Emails are sent to participants via SendGrid; Text messages are sent to participants via Twilio.

Automating Interventions

FEST created their own simple programming language that clinicians use to create automated interventions. Using this language, clinicians write conditional rules that trigger interventions based on data gathered from participants. For example, a clinician can trigger an intervention asking an inactive participant to exercise at least thirty minutes a day. A clinician may also trigger an intervention by asking an insomnious participant to reduce coffee consumption. Coordinators may create research groups that use only manual interventions, only automated interventions, or a combination of both.

In conducting the Project Step study, the WELL Center hopes to prove that automated interventions are as effective as manual ones.

The Outcome

The WELL Center uses FEST’s portal to conduct two of its research studies. In using the portal for its Project Step study to centralize research tasks, it has decreased manual labor by more than 70%. Additionally, in using technology-based interventions, the WELL Center has decreased manual labor exerted by clinicians.