Background: For the rising number of people living with dementia, cost-effective community-based interventions to support psychosocial care are needed. The FindMyApps program helps people with dementia and their caregivers learn to use tablet computers and find user-friendly apps that facilitate self-management and engagement in meaningful activities. This definitive trial builds on previous feasibility pilot trials of FindMyApps and further evaluates cost-effectiveness.
Method: This is a protocol for a non-blinded randomized controlled trial (RCT) with two arms (intervention and usual care). 150 dyads (person with dementia and their carer) will be recruited. Participants must be resident in the community, with a diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment or mild dementia (Mini Mental-State Examination 17-26, or Global Deterioration Scale 3-4. Dyads will be randomly assigned in equal proportions to receive either the FindMyApps intervention (experimental arm) or usual care (control arm). Primary outcomes measured at 3 months will be: patient self-management and social participation; caregiver sense of competence. Data will be collected through questionnaires filled in by the researcher (patient outcomes) or participants themselves (carer outcomes). In addition to a main effect analysis, a cost-effectiveness analysis will take place. In line with Medical Research Council (MRC) guidance for the evaluation of complex interventions, a process analysis will be undertaken, to identify factors that may influence trial outcomes. Semi-structured interviews and remotely collected data regarding use of the FindMyApps app will support the process analysis.
Result: Results of this study are expected in 2022. The study will be adequately powered to detect at least a moderate effect size of the intervention with respect to the primary outcomes.
Conclusion: This study will investigate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the FindMyApps intervention. The results of the study will provide strong evidence to support or oppose scaling up implementation of the intervention. This is also an example of how the MRC framework for the evaluation of complex interventions can be implemented in practice. In a field which is often criticized for a lack of high quality evidence, randomized controlled trials should be applied more frequently designed for the robust and transparent evaluation of digital tools and technologies.