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Home arrow Engineering arrow Behavioral Intervention Research: Designing, Evaluating, and Implementing


The technological evolution has granted behavioral intervention researchers new opportunities for delivering interventions that can enhance the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of intervention delivery. It also provides the opportunity to enhance access to these interventions for large numbers of people, especially those who have traditionally lacked access to these interventions because of financial constraints, geographic/travel concerns, fear of stigma, or other barriers. New technologies have also provided researchers and therapists tools that enhance data collection, management, and analysis. However, use of these technologies also gives rise to new challenges. Technology can have both beneficial and detrimental effects on behavioral interventions. Researchers need to be aware of the challenges and determine if and how technology is best used in a given intervention trial. In some cases, for example, it may not be optimal to use technology to deliver an intervention or some combination of technology and other more traditional formats for intervention. The answer to this issue depends on the stage of the pipeline, the objectives of the study, the target population, and feasibility constraints (e.g., budget, Internet access). In all cases when technology is employed in a trial, the issue of usability is paramount from the perspective of both the study participants and the research team.

A final thought on the use of BITs: Although it is common for behavioral scientists to employ the expertise of developers in the design and implementation of BITs, this relationship often fails to reach a true interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary level. Often a team of behavioral scientists will simply hire a developer to create a BIT to fit the needs of the behavioral scientists. In this instance, the developer has no say or influence over the research agenda and protocol itself and thus acts more as an employee instead of as a collaborator. The opposite can also be true, with computer engineers and scientists employing behavioral scientists in the development of interventions without a true collaborative atmosphere. Although the theoretical backgrounds and methodologies used by these groups may differ, they are able to work in tandem to develop a comprehensive research program that can potentially go beyond the individual limitations of each discipline (Schueller et al., 2013). For the behavioral sciences to fully enjoy the capabilities of technology in intervention research, these groups must learn to collaborate to develop methodologies that better cater to the needs of the research participants and study objectives.

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