JMIR Formative Research

Process evaluations, early results, and feasibility/pilot studies of digital and non-digital interventions

Editor-in-Chief:

Amaryllis Mavragani, PhDc, Scientific Editor at JMIR Publications, Canada


Impact Factor 2.0 CiteScore 2.7

JMIR Formative Research (JFR, ISSN 2561-326X, Journal Impact Factor™ 2.0 (Journal Citation Reports™ from Clarivate, 2023)) publishes peer-reviewed, openly accessible papers containing results from process evaluations, feasibility/pilot studies and other kinds of formative research and preliminary results. While the original focus was on the design of medical- and health-related research and technology innovations, JMIR Formative Research publishes studies from all areas of medical and health research.

Formative research is research that occurs before a program is designed and implemented, or while a program is being conducted. Formative research can help

  • define and understand populations in need of an intervention or public health program
  • create programs that are specific to the needs of those populations
  • ensure programs are acceptable and feasible to users before launching
  • improve the relationship between users and agencies/research groups
  • demonstrate the feasibility, use, satisfaction with, or problems with a program before large-scale summative evaluation (looking at health outcomes)

Many funding agencies will expect some sort of pilot/feasibility/process evaluation before funding a larger study such as a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT).

Formative research should be an integral part of developing or adapting programs and should be used while the program is ongoing to help refine and improve program activities. Thus, formative evaluation can and should also occur in the form of a process evaluation alongside a summative evaluation such as an RCT.

JMIR Formative Research fills an important gap in the academic journals landscape, as it publishes sound and peer-reviewed formative research that is critical for investigators to apply for further funding, but that is usually not published in outcomes-focused medical journals aiming for impact and generalizability.

Summative evaluations of programs and apps/software that have undergone a thorough formative evaluation before launch have a better chance to be published in high-impact flagship journals; thus, we encourage authors to submit - as a first step - their formative evaluations in JMIR Formative Research (and their evaluation protocols to JMIR Research Protocols). 

JMIR Formative Research is indexed in PubMed, PubMed CentralDOAJ, Scopus, Sherpa/Romeo, EBSCO/EBSCO Essentials, and the Emerging Sources Citation Index (Clarivate).

Recent Articles

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Pilot studies (ehealth)

Smoking contributes to 1 in 3 cancer deaths. At the Stanford Cancer Center, tobacco cessation medication management and counseling are provided as a covered benefit. Patients charted as using tobacco are contacted by a tobacco treatment specialist and offered cessation services. As a novel addition, this study examined the acceptability of a virtual reality (VR) mindful exposure therapy app for quitting smoking called MindCotine.

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Development and Evaluation of Research Methods, Instruments and Tools

By enabling individuals with hearing loss to collect their own hearing data in their personal real-world settings, there is scope to improve clinical care, empower consumers, and support shared clinical decision-making and problem-solving. Clinician support for this approach has been established in a separate study.

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Development and Evaluation of Research Methods, Instruments and Tools

A large number of modifiable and measurable daily actions are thought to impact mental health. The “Things You Do” refers to 5 types of daily actions that have been associated with mental health: healthy thinking, meaningful activities, goals and plans, healthy habits, and social connections. Previous studies have reported the psychometric properties of the Things You Do Questionnaire (TYDQ)–21-item (TYDQ21). The 21-item version, however, has an uneven distribution of items across the 5 aforementioned factors and may be lengthy to administer on a regular basis.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

A growing body of research has examined lifestyle-based interventions for dementia prevention. Specifically, health coaching interventions have been linked to decreased risk of Alzheimer disease (AD) comorbidities, such as diabetes. Despite the association, there is a lack of research examining the efficacy and perception of digital health coaching on reducing AD risk. Understanding the perceived benefits of participating in a digital health coach program is critical to ensure long-term use, including participant adherence and engagement.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Limited guidance exists for analyzing participant engagement in provider-guided digital health interventions (DHIs). System usage is commonly assessed, with acknowledged limitations in measuring socio-affective and cognitive aspects of engagement. Nurse WRITE, an 8-week web-based nurse-guided DHI for managing symptoms among women with recurrent ovarian cancer, offers an opportunity to develop a framework for assessing multidimensional engagement.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The use of telemedicine (TELE) increased exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic. While patient experience with TELE has been studied in other medical disciplines, its impact and applicability to integrative medicine practices remain unknown.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Exposure therapy (ET) for anxiety disorders involves introducing the participant to an anxiety-provoking situation over several treatment sessions. Each time, the participant is exposed to a higher anxiety-provoking stimulus; for example, in the case of fear of heights, the participant would successively experience being at a greater height. ET is effective, and its counterpart, virtual reality (VR) exposure therapy (VRET), where VR substitutes real-world exposure, is equally so. However, ET is time-consuming, requiring several sessions.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Spaced retrieval is a learning technique that involves engaging in repeated memory testing after increasingly lengthy intervals of time. Spaced retrieval has been shown to improve long-term memory in Alzheimer disease (AD), but it has historically been difficult to implement in the everyday lives of individuals with AD.

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Formative Evaluation of Non-Ehealth Innovations

The Rapid Autopsy Program (RAP) is a valuable procedure for studying human biology and diseases such as cancer. However, implementing the RAP in Japan necessitates a thorough understanding of concepts such as good death and the integration of sociocultural aspects. By revising perceptions of organ donation on social media, we bring attention to the challenges associated with implementing new medical research procedures such as the RAP.

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Pilot studies (ehealth)

As digital technologies and especially artificial intelligence (AI) become increasingly important in health care, it is essential to determine whether and why potential users intend to use related health information systems (HIS). Several theories exist, but they focus mainly on aspects of health care or information systems, in addition to general psychological theories, and hence provide a small number of variables to explain future behavior. Thus, research that provides a larger number of variables by combining several theories from health care, information systems, and psychology is necessary.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Early signs of Alzheimer disease (AD) are difficult to detect, causing diagnoses to be significantly delayed to time points when brain damage has already occurred and current experimental treatments have little effect on slowing disease progression. Tracking cognitive decline at early stages is critical for patients to make lifestyle changes and consider new and experimental therapies. Frequently studied biomarkers are invasive and costly and are limited for predicting conversion from normal to mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

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Formative Evaluation of Non-Ehealth Innovations

Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) develops in response to repeated small-level chemical exposures or a major exposure in a subset of people, who then experience symptoms that can range from mild to debilitating when exposed to chemicals. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stringent health measures put in place may have increased the burden for those living with MCS, as it became more challenging to avoid chemicals that trigger their condition.

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Preprints Open for Peer-Review

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