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  • Leonie Westerbeek

The things we do for data

Collecting data is a big part of doing research but it does not always come easy. For my own PhD project, for instance, we rely on a very time-consuming in-person data collection strategy: a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) with general practitioners (GPs) and older patients. While the process is a lot of fun, it also comes with some challenges and pitfalls. Curious to hear about both the good and the bad? Then this blogpost is for you!

My PhD project is relatively practical. We try to facilitate shared decision-making between older patients and general practitioners by using technology. More specifically, we try to identify older patients with a high fall risk and help both the GP and older patient to engage in shared decision-making regarding their medication-related fall risk. To develop and evaluate our intervention, we are in close contact with actual GPs and patients, and we collaborate with two companies from the field.

To test our intervention, we use questionnaires, and we record consultations between GPs and older patients. This means that in order to collect my data, I have to be physically present when a GP meets with one of the patients participating in our study. As you can imagine, this makes my life fairly chaotic: there is a lot of commuting and a lot of administration. Yet, it is all worth it, because we get to see the systems we have been working on for a few years being used in practice.

As mentioned, we collaborate with two companies from the field, who implemented our systems so that they can be used in our RCT. These are very valuable collaborations, as they bring us closer to the actual implementation of the systems in the future. However, collaborating with companies from the field also comes with its own set of challenges. Not everything we would like to implement from a theoretical perspective is technically feasible, and while conducting the RCT, especially in the beginning some ‘teething problems’ occurred. Since I don’t have access to the systems myself, I sometimes found out the system didn’t work when I was already present at the GP’s office. This is of course very unfortunate, but we are glad we can rely on the expertise of third parties for certain parts of the project.

Collecting data is a lot of fun, but sometimes it’s crazy to think about the things we do for our data. In-person data collection and collaborating with third parties pose real challenges, but it is worthwhile. Seeing something we developed ourselves being used during a consultation is incredibly fulfilling. Data analysis has not yet commenced, so I have no insight into the potential effects of our intervention yet, but just seeing GPs using our systems and patients being happy with the care provided to them is already a very cool process to witness!

About the author:

Leonie Westerbeek is a PhD candidate on project SNOWDROP. Her PhD project is titled “Big Data for the joint management of medication-related falls for senior citizens”

You can find out more about her project here.


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