Feasibility, Acceptability, and Influence of mHealth-Supported N-of-1 Trials for Enhanced Cognitive and Emotional Well-Being in US Volunteers

Richard L. Kravitz, Adrian Aguilera, Elaine J. Chen, Yong K. Choi, Eric Hekler, Chris Karr, Katherine K. Kim, Sayali Phatak, Sayantani Sarkar, Stephen M. Schueller, Ida Sim, Jiabei Yang, Christopher H. Schmid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Although group-level evidence supports the use of behavioral interventions to enhance cognitive and emotional well-being, different interventions may be more acceptable or effective for different people. N-of-1 trials are single-patient crossover trials designed to estimate treatment effectiveness in a single patient. We designed a mobile health (mHealth) supported N-of-1 trial platform permitting US adult volunteers to conduct their own 30-day self-experiments testing a behavioral intervention of their choice (deep breathing/meditation, gratitude journaling, physical activity, or helpful acts) on daily measurements of stress, focus, and happiness. We assessed uptake of the study, perceived usability of the N-of-1 trial system, and influence of results (both reported and perceived) on enthusiasm for the chosen intervention (defined as perceived helpfulness of the chosen intervention and intent to continue performing the intervention in the future). Following a social media and public radio campaign, 447 adults enrolled in the study and 259 completed the post-study survey. Most were highly educated. Perceived system usability was high (mean scale score 4.35/5.0, SD 0.57). Enthusiasm for the chosen intervention was greater among those with higher pre-study expectations that the activity would be beneficial for them (p < 0.001), those who obtained more positive N-of-1 results (as directly reported to participants) (p < 0.001), and those who interpreted their N-of-1 study results more positively (p < 0.001). However, reported results did not significantly influence enthusiasm after controlling for participants' interpretations. The interaction between pre-study expectation of benefit and N-of-1 results interpretation was significant (p < 0.001), such that those with the lowest starting pre-study expectations reported greater intervention enthusiasm when provided with results they interpreted as positive. We conclude that N-of-1 behavioral trials can be appealing to a broad albeit highly educated and mostly female audience, that usability was acceptable, and that N-of-1 behavioral trials may have the greatest utility among those most skeptical of the intervention to begin with.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number260
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
StatePublished - Jun 25 2020


  • behavioral health
  • digital health
  • mobile health
  • N-of-1 trial
  • psychological well-being
  • single patient trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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