Pre-Conference Workshops

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Introduction to the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) for building more effective, efficient, economical, and scalable interventions

Presenter: Distinguished Professor Linda M. Collins, The Methodology Center and Department of Human Development & Family Studies, Penn State

The majority of behavioral, biobehavioral, and biomedical interventions in use today have been evaluated as a treatment package using a two-arm randomized controlled trial (RCT). This approach is an excellent way to determine whether an intervention is effective. However, the treatment package approach is less helpful in providing empirical information that can be used to optimize the intervention to achieve improved effectiveness and efficiency, while maintaining a desired level of economy and/or scalability. In this seminar an innovative methodological framework for optimizing behavioral interventions, the multiphase optimization strategy (MOST), will be presented. MOST is based on ideas inspired by engineering methods, which stress both ongoing improvement of products and careful management of research and implementation resources. MOST is a comprehensive strategy that includes three phases: preparation, optimization, and evaluation. MOST can be used to build a new intervention or to improve an existing intervention. Using MOST it is possible to engineer an intervention to meet a specific criterion; for example, the objective might be to identify the intervention that achieves the best outcome obtainable for less than a specified implementation cost. MOST can be applied to any type of intervention, but it is a particularly natural fit with internet-delivered interventions.

This workshop will provide an introduction to MOST. A substantial amount of time will be devoted to experimental design, which is an important tool in MOST. Time will be reserved for open discussion of how the concepts presented can be applied in the research of attendees.


Designing Chatbot-based EMAs and Just-in-time Adaptive Interventions with the Open Source Platform MobileCoach: Overview and Lesson’s Learnt


Peter Tinschert, Ph.D. Candidate and Doctoral Researcher at the Center for Digital Health Interventions (CDHI) ETH Zurich & University of St.Gallen

Jan-Niklas Kramer, Ph.D. Candidate and Doctoral Researcher at the Center for Digital Health Interventions (CDHI) ETH Zurich & University of St.Gallen

This workshop serves as an introduction to the MobileCoach (, an open source platform for ecological momentary assessments and mobile interventions for health behaviour change (Filler et al., 2015; Haug et al., 2017; Kowatsch et al., 2017). Key features of the MobileCoach platform include a rule-based chatbot interface, Limesurvey integration, smartphone sensor data collection and different randomization options. These features allow researchers to implement intensive data collection (e.g. ecological momentary assessment), advanced mHealth interventions (e.g. just-in-time adaptive interventions) and various study designs (e.g. micro-randomized trials).

The workshop presenters will give a hands-on demonstration of the basic MobileCoach functionalities. Informed by application examples in the domains of physical activity promotion and asthma digital biomarker research, possible use cases of rule-based chatbots will be explored together with the audience.

Filler, A., Kowatsch, T., Haug, S., Wahle, F., Staake, T., & Fleisch, E. (2015). MobileCoach: A Novel Open Source Platform for the Design of Evidence-based, Scalable and Low-Cost Behavioral Health Interventions – Overview and Preliminary Evaluation in the Public Health Context. Paper presented at the 14th annual Wireless Telecommunications Symposium (WTS 2015), New York, USA.

Haug, S., Paz Castro, R., Kowatsch, T., Filler, A., Dey, M., & Schaub, M. P. (2017). Efficacy of a web-and text messaging-based intervention to reduce problem drinking in adolescents: Results of a cluster-randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 85(2), 147-159.

Kowatsch, T., Volland, D., Shih, I., Rüegger, D., Künzler, F., Barata, F., . . . Heldt, K. (2017). Design and Evaluation of a Mobile Chat App for the Open Source Behavioral Health Intervention Platform MobileCoach. Paper presented at the International Conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems.


Writing for publication: an interactive workshop on writing for scientific journals

Participants will have the opportunity to extend their skills in writing for publication, get advice regarding the review process and the role of open access versus traditional publishing, and understand publishing processes and priorities.


Heleen Riper, PhD
Full Professor eMental-Health/ clinical psychology
Chair DIFFER: Digital Framework for E-Health Research:
President PAST International Society for Research on Internet Interventions (ISRII)

Agnieszka Freda, Elesvier, The Netherlands
Agnieszka Freda is a Senior Publisher at Elsevier BV Amsterdam.


Machine Learning for Mental Health

Presenter: Burkhardt Funk and Mark Hoogendoorn

In this workshop we will provide an in depth discussion of how machine learning (ML) techniques, being part of the domain of artificial intelligence, can be applied to the domain mental health. We will discuss the ML techniques themselves on some level of detail, and will focus on applications for predictive modeling (both predicting therapeutic outcome as well as short term developments for patients) as well as personalization of therapies. We will illustrate all techniques by real life case studies.

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