JMIR Formative Research

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

Editor-in-Chief:

Gunther Eysenbach, MD, MPH, FACMI


JMIR Formative Research 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.

This journal 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 in JMIR Research Protocols). 

JMIR Formative Research has been accepted for indexing in PubMed and PubMed Central.

Recent Articles

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The prevalence of neurodevelopmental and psychiatric diagnoses (NPDs) in youth is increasing, and unhealthy physical activity (PA), diet, screen time, and sleep habits contribute to the chronic disease disparities and behavioral challenges this population experiences.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The family environment plays an important role in the development of children’s energy balance–related behaviors. As a result, parents’ energy balance–related parenting practices are important targets of preventive childhood obesity programs. Families with a lower socioeconomic position (SEP) may benefit from participating in such programs but are generally less well reached than families with a higher SEP.

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Formative Evaluation of Non-Ehealth Innovations

Saudi Arabia implemented a plain tobacco packaging regulation, one of the World Health Organization’s recommended initiatives to help reduce smoking rates, in August 2019. A few weeks after implementation, a large number of smokers complained via various media channels, especially social media (eg, Twitter), that an extreme change in cigarette taste had occurred, frequency of coughing had increased, and for some, shortness of breath had led to hospitalization.

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Formative Evaluation of Non-Ehealth Innovations

Over the past decade, public health research and practice sectors have shifted their focus away from identifying health disparities and toward addressing the social, environmental, and economic determinants of health equity. Given the complex and interrelated nature of these determinants, developing policies that will advance health equity requires collaboration across sectors outside of health. However, engaging various stakeholder groups, tapping into their unique knowledge systems, and identifying common objectives across sectors is difficult and time consuming and can impede collaborative efforts.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Children with special health care needs (CSHCN) require more than the usual care management and coordination efforts from caregivers and health care providers (HCPs). Health information and communication technologies can potentially facilitate these efforts to increase the quality of care received by CSHCN.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

There are far more patients in mental distress than there is time available for mental health professionals to support them. Although digital tools may help mitigate this issue, critics have suggested that technological solutions that lack human empathy will prevent a bond or therapeutic alliance from being formed, thereby narrowing these solutions’ efficacy.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The year 2020 has been challenging for many, particularly for young adults who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Emerging adulthood is a developmental phase with significant changes in the patterns of daily living; it is a risky phase for the onset of major mental illness. College students during the pandemic face significant risk, potentially losing several protective factors (eg, housing, routine, social support, job, and financial security) that are stabilizing for mental health and physical well-being. Individualized multiple assessments of mental health, referred to as multimodal personal chronicles, present an opportunity to examine indicators of health in an ongoing and personalized way using mobile sensing devices and wearable internet of things.

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Early Results from COVID-19 Studies

There are still many unanswered questions about the novel coronavirus; however, a largely underutilized source of knowledge is the millions of people who have recovered after contracting the virus. This includes a majority of undocumented cases of COVID-19, which were classified as mild or moderate and received little to no clinical care during the course of illness.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The effectiveness of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is dependent on the degree of use, so adherence is essential. Cognitive components (eg, self-efficacy) and support during treatment have been found to be important in CPAP use. Video consultation may be useful to support patients during treatment. So far, video consultation has rarely been evaluated in thorough controlled research, with only a limited number of outcomes assessed.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Several mobile apps have been designed for patients with a diagnosis of cancer. Unfortunately, despite the promising potential and impressive spread, their effectiveness often remains unclear. Most mobile apps are developed without any medical professional involvement and quality evidence-based assessment. Furthermore, they are often implemented in clinical care before any research is performed to confirm usability, appreciation, and clinical benefits for patients.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The use of wearable biosensor devices for monitoring and coaching in forensic psychiatric settings yields high expectations for improved self-regulation of emotions and behavior in clients and staff members. More so, if clients have mild intellectual disabilities (IQ 50-85), they might benefit from these biosensors as they are easy to use in everyday life, which ensures that clients can practice with the devices in multiple stress and arousal-inducing situations. However, research on (continuous) use and acceptance of biosensors in forensic psychiatry for clients with mild intellectual disabilities and their caretakers is scarce. Although wearable biosensors show promise for health care, recent research showed that the acceptance and continuous use of wearable devices in consumers is not as was anticipated, probably due to low expectations.

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Preprints Open for Peer-Review

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