Stanford WELL For Life Wearable Pilot Study: Bringing Objective Data to Epidemiological Studies
Stanford WELL for Life
The longitudinal international cohort study, Stanford WELL for Life Study, aims to enhance health and well-being on a global scale. This cutting-edge project is led by Dr. Ann Hsing and her team at Stanford University. They believe that well-being affects every single individual in the population and thus is a very important research area to be involved in.
Incorporating Objective Data into Subjective Reports
The WELL For Life researchers wanted to measure sleep quality, stress, and depression. They chose to run a pilot study to test the feasibility of using smartwatches to capture heart rate, and then use heart rate variability (HRV) to estimate sleep quality, stress levels and other biometric data. This is where Labfront came in.
We wanted to infuse biological data into psychological studies to give it more credibility and to provide opportunities for future intervention.
Dr. Hsing and her team chose Labfront because they knew it was important to have very granular sensor data in their research. With most consumer wearables, you cannot collect interbeat interval (IBI) data. Using Garmins with Labfront allowed the team to customize the data to their own needs.
The Pilot Study
The pilot began in July 2021 with 120 participants in the US. They wore Vivosmart 4 watches 24/7 for 60 days. While that may seem intense, WELL for Life participants are described by Dr. Hsing as “diehard fans” for a reason and are keen to participate in any cool research WELL is running.
Doing the ‘impossible’ with Labfront Analytics
The standout feature for the team was Labfront Analytics. After all, 120 people for 60 days 24/7 is a lot of data! Our analysts saved them a tremendous amount of time–Dr. Hsing estimates at least a year–with their skills. They were able to derive HRV from the IBI data that would have been nearly impossible for analysts without HRV expertise. As she put it, if you’ve never learned or practiced piano, there’s no way you can perform a recital in a week. The data processed by Dr. Han-Ping Huang and Dr. Francis Hsu (with the skill of concert pianists) was then able to be used by Dr. Hsing’s team for their statistical analysis.
The analysts are very conscientious, very hardworking, and I am appreciative of their contribution. Labfront has tremendous potential and a great future ahead.
Challenges & Advice Going Forward
A lot of lessons were learned from this pilot. As some participants are more technology-savvy than others, it was easier for some to sync the data. Since low adherence leads to low reliability and a lot of missing data, an initial pilot, quality devices and extremely clear onboarding instructions are essential. Dr. Hsing and her team provided a training session over Zoom but since adherence depends on familiarity with tech and comfort with new devices, they recommend perhaps an additional training session and support resources in place if you have participants unfamiliar with these devices.
The WELL for Life participants found syncing the Garmin Connect and PhysioQ apps challenging. After the pilot wrapped up last year, we used their feedback to make the syncing much smoother and easier for future projects. Labfront also now offers a Help Center with resources to enable a smoother onboarding process.
Alix doubles as the marketing and pun specialist at Labfront. She usually operates quietly behind the scenes, but give her a karaoke mic and all bets are off.