Can We Trust Health Care Stated-Preference Studies Conducted on Mobile Devices?

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What do rapidly changing technologies mean to the collection of stated-preference studies – studies that ask individuals what they value in their health and health care? The advent of discrete-choice experiment surveys administered online brought improvements to access and quality of research. With the rise in use of mobile computing devices, the field may again see gains. 

However, research is needed to understand whether preference studies completed on mobile devices are as robust as those completed on desktop or laptop personal computers. Caroline Vass and Marco Boeri of RTI Health Solutions have published a study in The Patient – Patient-Centered Outcomes Research that explores this subject by addressing the question, “Does the choice of a respondent’s device adversely affect choice behavior or data quality?”

The differences between PC and mobile device experiences are well known. While data collection software can be optimized for each experience, the researchers were interested in finding out if small screens or differing operating systems decrease functionality. 

The goal of this study was to understand if the device type used affected these seven parameters:

  1. Drop-out rate
  2. Respondents’ sociodemographic characteristics
  3. Response time and attention 
  4. Respondents’ self-reported understanding of the survey
  5. Failure rate of an internal validity test
  6. Self-reported attribute non-attendance (ANA)
  7. Respondents’ preference results

While analysis did show longer completion times for surveys done on mobile devices, the data suggests that the parameters were not otherwise affected. Seeing that, Vass and Boeri recommend that health preference researchers allow respondents to complete surveys on their preferred device.  “This study shows the importance of ensuring surveys are optimized for different screen sizes/systems,” stated Vass. “Enabling optimized participation across devices could encourage diversity in the sample and boost respondents’ engagement, improving the quality of the preference data collected.” 

To learn more about this research, reach out to lead author Caroline Vass here.

Mobilising the Next Generation of Stated‑Preference Studies: the Association of Access Device with Choice Behaviour and Data Quality. Caroline M. Vass, Marco Boeri. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40271-020-00484-x

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