Purpose: This paper describes an Experiential Sampling Methodology Tool (ESM-Tool) for use in clinical and healthrelated research. The ESM-Tool uses a mobile smart device to prompt people to complete a set of questions about their psychological state, as well as to capture GPS activity data. In this way, the ESM-Tool attempts to tap into people's 'real-time' experience, rather than depend on retrospective accounts. While it can be used in many research contexts, the ESM-Tool has been developed as part of the BADAS project1 to investigate bipolar disorder (BD) amongst seniors, a chronic condition that accounts for 20% of all mood disorders among older adults. BD is a chronic mental disorder characterized by extreme variations of mood, where the sequence, timing, severity, and duration of manic and depressive episodes vary widely. The use of research methodologies that are able to collect real-time data on mood and context can facilitate a deeper understanding of BD in seniors. The rapid growth of mobile smart devices in recent years provides a massive opportunity to develop these kinds of research tools. Method: The ESM-Tool uses a mobile smart device to prompt users to complete a set of questions about their immediate psychological state, perceived health status, their activities, and their everyday circumstances, as well as collecting data on patterns of activity using the mobile device's GPS function. Data is transferred by a secure communications link to a back-end system that includes the survey database and a web interface for researchers to configure and manage individual surveys. The development of the tool comprised a number of stages. An initial stage involved state-of-the-art review, along with end-user and expert consultations to determine the tool requirements. A modeling approach was utilized to describe requirements independent of specific device platforms. In the second stage, the ESM Tool was implemented on smart devices (currently iPhone and iPad) and tested in a process of iterative prototype development to optimize functionality, usability, and acceptability with potential end-users. In the third stage, the ESM Tool(s) was piloted with expert testers and older adults with BD. Results & Discussion: The ESM-Tool is a novel methodology for researching BD with many advantages over alternative methods (e.g. paper diary), including notably higher reliability and the ability to automatically record movement and location, connect with devices such as biomedical sensors, and connect with exogenous data (e.g. temperature and weather conditions). The ESM-Tool has been tested and evaluated in an initial trial. Feedback from potential endusers was very positive and suggested further improvements in ease-of-use, such as improved notifications to complete the survey. A comparison of the ESM-Tool's recorded survey data with parallel paper and pen survey completion confirmed the tool's accuracy. Evaluation within the team also suggested operational improvements to the researcher interface. The tool can be used in many other research contexts, and has potential for use in clinical contexts such as diagnostic assessments and self-management of mood- disorders or other chronic conditions. Further refinement and testing is planned prior to deployment in the empirical phase of the BADAS project.
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