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

Machine learning–based facial and vocal measurements have demonstrated relationships with schizophrenia diagnosis and severity. Demonstrating utility and validity of remote and automated assessments conducted outside of controlled experimental or clinical settings can facilitate scaling such measurement tools to aid in risk assessment and tracking of treatment response in populations that are difficult to engage.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Indoor air pollution is harmful to everyone, but children are of particular concern, as they are more vulnerable to its adverse health effects from air pollutants. Although mobile technology is increasingly being designed to support monitoring and improving air quality indoors, little attention has been paid to its use by and for children. Previously, we created inAirKids, a child-friendly device to promote children’s engagement with monitoring indoor air quality through a participatory design process. The next step is to evaluate its usability in the real world.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Mobile apps may offer a valuable platform for delivering evidence-based psychological interventions for individuals with atypical appearances, or visible differences, who experience psychosocial appearance concerns such as appearance-based social anxiety and body dissatisfaction. Before this study, researchers and stakeholders collaboratively designed an app prototype based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), an evidence-based form of cognitive behavioral therapy that uses strategies such as mindfulness, clarification of personal values, and value-based goal setting. The intervention also included social skills training, an established approach for increasing individuals’ confidence in managing social interactions, which evoke appearance-based anxiety for many.

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Formative Evaluation of Non-Ehealth Innovations

With rates of childhood obesity continually increasing, effective physical activity and nutrition interventions are needed. Formative research is used to tailor interventions to different cultural and geographic contexts and can be vital in adapting intervention strategies in the face of significant disruptive circumstances (like COVID-19).

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Over half of US adults have at least one chronic disease, including obesity. Although physical activity is an important component of chronic disease self-management, few reach the recommended physical activity goals. Individuals who identify as racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionally affected by chronic diseases and physical inactivity. Interventions using consumer-based wearable devices have shown promise for increasing physical activity among patients with chronic diseases; however, populations with the most to gain, such as minorities, have been poorly represented to date.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Digital interventions, including mobile apps, represent a promising means of providing effective mental health support to children and young people. Despite the increased availability of mental health apps, there is a significant gap for this age group, especially for children (aged 10-12 years). Research investigating the effectiveness and development process of child mental health apps is limited, and the field faces persistent issues in relation to low user uptake and engagement, which is assumed to be a result of limited user involvement in the design process.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The inability to seamlessly exchange information across radiation therapy ecosystems is a limiting factor in the pursuit of data-driven clinical practice. The implementation of semantic interoperability is a prerequisite for achieving the full capacity of the latest developments in personalized and precision medicine, such as mathematical modeling, advanced algorithmic information processing, and artificial intelligence approaches.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Chatbots have the potential to provide cost-effective mental health prevention programs at scale and increase interactivity, ease of use, and accessibility of intervention programs.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Approximately 57 million physician appointments annually in the United Kingdom are for minor ailments. These illnesses could be self-cared for, which would potentially lower patients’ anxiety, increase their confidence, and be more convenient. In a randomized controlled trial of the Internet Dr digital intervention, patients with access to the intervention had fewer consultations for respiratory tract infections (RTIs). Having established intervention efficacy, further examination of trial data is required to understand how the intervention works.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Patient attitudes and behavior are critical to understand owing to the increasing role of patient choice. There is a paucity of investigation into the perceived credibility of online information and whether such information impacts how patients choose their surgeons.

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Preprints Open for Peer-Review

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Open Peer Review Period:

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