Objective The experience sampling method (ESM) is a structured diary technique to appraise subjective experiences in daily life. It is applied in psychiatric patients, as well as in patients with somatic illness. Despite the potential of ESM assessment, the improved logistics and its increased administration in research, its use in clinical trials remains limited. This paper introduces ESM for clinical trials in psychiatry and beyond.
Methods ESM is an ecologically valid method that yields a comprehensive view of an individual's daily life. It allows the assessment of various constructs (eg, quality of life, psychopathology) and psychological mechanisms (eg, stress-sensitivity, coping). These constructs are difficult to assess using cross-sectional questionnaires. ESM can be applied in treatment monitoring, as an ecological momentary intervention, in clinical trials, or in single case clinical trials. Technological advances (eg, smartphone applications) make its implementation easier.
Results Advantages of ESM are highlighted and disadvantages are discussed. Furthermore, the ecological nature of ESM data and its consequences are explored, including the potential pitfalls of ambiguously formulated research questions and the specificities of ESM in statistical analyses. The last section focuses on ESM in relation to clinical trials and discusses its future use in optimising clinical decision-making.
Conclusions ESM can be a valuable asset in clinical trial research and should be used more often to study the benefits of treatment in psychiatry and somatic health.
- PUBLIC HEALTH
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