Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics


This article was written on 21 Mar 2020, and is filled under Current Issue, Volume 15 2020, Volume 15 No 1.

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Software Column

by Allen McLean, RN, MN, MSc, PhD(c)

Allen is currently a PhD student in Health Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon) in the Computational Epidemiology and Public Health Informatics Lab. His research interests include the development of computer modeling and simulation software for addressing health systems challenges, chronic diseases and health inequities at the population level, as well as mobile technologies applied in long-term care facilities. Allen previously attended the University of Victoria earning an MN and MSc (Health Information Science) in a unique dual degree program for Nursing Informatics professionals. Allen has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare as an ultrasound technologist, clinical educator, team leader and community health RN.



Data collection can be challenging, and traditional data storage is often cumbersome. For example, imagine trying to recruit participants and collect questionnaire data in-person during a busy hospital or clinic shift. Then imagine having to store the paper questionnaires in a secure location, usually for many years beyond study completion. Not impossible, but there are better options. Now imagine recruiting study participants’ in-person, but then delivering research questionnaires to participants’ mobile devices; meaning that participants can complete the study questionnaires at their convenience, with participant responses stored electronically – simple and secure. Many other examples come to mind, but the point being – using informatics in research studies can benefit both the participants and investigators in many ways, but first nurse researchers require the technology for operationalizing their plans. Having a mobile data collection app custom built can be very expensive. Alternatively, nurses with software development skills could build their own from scratch, but this could be very time consuming. A third option is to modify an existing data collection software tool, ideally a tool available at low- or no-cost, with options for customization. Fortunately, there is a software tool fitting this description.

REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) is a secure and reliable web application for building and managing online surveys and databases. REDCap can be used to collect virtually any type of data and is particularly useful for supporting online or offline data capture in research studies (REDCap, 2020). REDCap can be accessed by study participants on the web or through a mobile app, and the results can be exported to many common statistics software packages. REDCap software is available at no cost to most non-profit organizations, and is currently licenced for use in over 100 countries and 4,000 organizations, including 117 across Canada. The REDCap Mobile App, and MyCap, are two mobile applications that help extend REDCap’s functionality. The REDCap Mobile App can collect data on- or off-line from an iPhone, iPad, or Android phone or tablet, and is particularly useful in environments with poor Internet connectivity (REDCap Mobile App, 2020). REDCap provides a shared library of data collection instruments and forms that can be downloaded and used by researchers at REDCap partner institutions. REDCap also provides a series of videos that can help researchers gain a better understanding of the REDCap application, and its functionality.

Most investigators familiar with REDCap have either read about or used REDCap as a tool for building and delivering surveys, or as a database for storing various types of data. However, the introduction of new software features (e.g., the ability to conduct longitudinal and multi-site studies, or the option to add user code), means that some investigators are beginning to explore novel and fascinating uses for the REDCap system. For example, a recent publication from a group of nurse researchers describes how the authors used advanced REDCap functionality to support the data management infrastructure of an interactive, web-based therapeutic intervention (Crane et al., 2019). Myself, I am using REDCap as a persuasive health technology in my PhD research. Briefly, I am delivering a behavioural intervention via REDCap that encourages self-care of the legs and feet among a cohort of participants living with peripheral vascular disease. I encourage each of you to explore REDCap, and look forward to the applications you create!


Crane, S., Comer, R. S., Arenson, A. D., & Draucker, C. (2019). Using REDCap to Facilitate Web-Based Therapeutic Intervention Research. Nursing Research, 68(6), 483–487.

REDCap. (2020). The REDCap Project.

REDCap Mobile App. (2020). The REDCap Mobile App.

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