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VUMC app used by research participants around the world

May. 24, 2023, 1:05 PM

By Paul Govern

MyCap is a secure, customizable mobile computing application (for smartphone or tablet) used to collect data from research participants on a remote basis.

At Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where MyCap was created and launched in 2018, some 107 projects have used the app, and by 2021, research participants in 135 countries had installed the free app.

Projects have included:

  • Mt. Sinai Health System in New York City used MyCap to monitor patients who had recently suffered a stroke or were at risk for stroke.
  • A collaboration of five academic centers across the United States used MyCap to collect real-time information about individual’s experiences from the onset of spontaneous labor through hospital admission for birth.
  • Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City used MyCap’s tapping task to identify Parkinson’s disease patients from healthy controls.

A July 2022 paper by the developers described MyCap as “best suited for longitudinal studies with frequent requests for information from participants.” Along with facilitating participant survey data collection, the app uses mobile-device sensors to support automated administration of tasks performed by participants. Tasks can be devised to evaluate motor activities, fitness, cognition, speech, hearing, hand dexterity and vision.

Shelby Meier, PhD, and colleagues with the Vanderbilt Recruitment Innovation Center used MyCap in a project weighing the use of monetary compensation for attracting and retaining biomedical research participants. With compensation levels for individual participants set randomly, the project involved a range of activities to be completed by participants via MyCap (publication of results is pending).

“MyCap was crucial in allowing us to conduct that work in a fully remote environment, which allowed us to include participants from all across the U.S.,” said Meier, project lead for this study out of the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, or VICTR. “We found the customizability of MyCap incredibly useful, and for anything we weren’t sure of, the MyCap team was right there for support. Participants seemed to enjoy the direct messaging feature especially, and we really enjoyed how easy it was to communicate with them individually.”

Beyond its use in human subject research, at VUMC and elsewhere MyCap has been used in projects concerning health care quality improvement and operations.

Originally an external module, last November MyCap became a fully integrated component of Research Electronic Data Capture, or REDCap, a web-based software application devised and launched at VUMC in 2004. Maintained by a team at VICTR, REDCap at last count had users at 6,513 institutions in 153 countries. (MyCap isn’t to be confused with REDCap Mobile App, which allows research coordinators to collect data offline and on the move.)

“There are other mobile apps out there that support remote data capture from research participants; what helps set MyCap apart is its seamless integration with REDCap, which, has become a popular platform for supporting human-subjects research around the globe,” said REDCap’s creator, Paul Harris, PhD, professor of Biomedical Informatics and director of the Office of Research Informatics.

When VUMC conducted a COVID-19 surveillance study at a local high school, participants used MyCap to scan barcodes on the bottom of their home-collection specimen vials (used weekly and dropped off at school for testing), and to answer questions about any symptoms they may have had recently.

“REDCap in concert with MyCap is proving to be a wonderful way of engaging participants, returning feedback quickly to students, their parents and the other participants, and getting everyone’s trust in the medical research process,” said a leader of the study, infectious diseases specialist Simon Mallal, MBBS, professor of Medicine.

In an initial VUMC study using MyCap, post-transcatheter-aortic-valve-replacement patients took home tablet computers loaded with the app. “While participants used MyCap to complete quality-of-life surveys, we also used the app to remind them to complete their daily exercises and hold them accountable,” said Stephanie Smith, MA, CCRP, senior clinical trials operations manager at VICTR.

The employee health promotion program at VUMC, Health Plus, uses MyCap to support a fitness activity called Step Challenges. The program formerly relied entirely on paper forms; participants are now able to use the app to log activity toward fitness goals.

“With the app, we are able to reach a larger population and provide an easier way to participate,” said Robby Bishop, assistant manager, Health Plus.

MyCap was initially spearheaded by Jonathan Swafford, a VICTR application developer who has since retired. Giovanni Delacqua, the lead developer for REDCap Mobile App, took over from Swafford; other contributing application developers include Vaishali Jagtap and Byungsuk Choi, and members of the product development team at VICTR also include Emily Serdoz, Dionne Grant, and Jessica Eidenmuller. Rob Taylor is manager of application development at VICTR. For more information, visit the MyCap resources webpage at

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