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 2.2

JMIR Formative Research (JFR, ISSN 2561-326X, Impact Factor 2.2publishes 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, JFR 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.

JFR 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 JFR (and their evaluation protocols to JMIR Research Protocols). 

In 2023, JMIR Formative Research received an inaugural Journal Impact Factor™ of 2.2 (Source: Journal Citation Reports™ from Clarivate, 2023)JFR 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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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Chronic pain is prevalent in our society, with conditions such as fibromyalgia being notably widespread. The gold standard for aiding individuals dealing with chronic pain involves interdisciplinary approaches rooted in a biopsychosocial perspective. Regrettably, access to such care is difficult for most of the people in need. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been used as a way of overcoming access barriers (among other advantages).

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a major health issue in Indonesia, where several barriers to treatment exist, including inaccessibility to treatment services, stigma, and criminalization of drug issues. Peer involvement and the use of telemedicine to deliver psychotherapy are promising approaches to overcome these barriers.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Internet medical treatment, also known as telemedicine, represents a paradigm shift in health care delivery. This contactless model allows patients to seek medical advice remotely, often before they physically visit a doctor’s clinic. Herein, physicians are in a relatively passive position, as patients browse and choose their health care providers. Although a wealth of experience is undoubtedly a draw for many patients, it remains unclear which specific facets of a doctor’s credentials and accomplishments patients prioritize during their selection process.

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Early Results from COVID-19 Studies

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the implementation of nonpharmaceutical interventions by US institutions of higher education at an unprecedented level. During the backdrop of an emerging pandemic, younger adults (eg, college students) had an overall lower risk for severe outcomes for SARS-CoV-2, making this population a potential source of transmission for age groups with high susceptibility and negative health outcomes. We examine how college students’ level of concern for COVID-19 was influenced by different sources of information, their living status, income level, and other demographic identifiers and its association with prevention behavior change.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Journey to 9 Plus (J9) is an integrated reproductive, maternal, neonatal, and child health approach to care that has at its core the goal of decreasing the rate of maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality in rural Haiti. For the maximum effectiveness of this program, it is necessary that the data system be of the highest quality. OpenMRS, an electronic medical record (EMR) system, has been in place since 2013 throughout a tertiary referral hospital, the Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais, in Haiti and has been expanded for J9 data collection and reporting. The J9 program monthly reports showed that staff had limited time and capacity to perform double charting, which contributed to incomplete and inconsistent reports. Initial evaluation of the quality of EMR data entry showed that only 18% (58/325) of the J9 antenatal visits were being documented electronically at the start of this quality improvement project.

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Early Results from COVID-19 Studies

To investigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health workforce, we aimed to develop a framework that synergizes natural language processing (NLP) techniques and human-generated analysis to reduce, organize, classify, and analyze a vast volume of publicly available news articles to complement scientific literature and support strategic policy dialogue, advocacy, and decision-making.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Food insecurity continues to be a risk for college students in the United States. It is associated with numerous problems, such as chronic health conditions, increased stress and anxiety, and a lower grade point average. After COVID-19, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits were extended to college-aged students; however, there were some barriers to participation, which persisted such as lack of perceived food insecurity risk, lack of knowledge regarding the SNAP application process, the complexity of determining eligibility, and stigma associated with needing social assistance. A technology-enhanced tool was developed to address these barriers to SNAP enrollment and encourage at-risk college students to apply for SNAP.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a major public health concern. Adequate self-management skills are vital to reduce CKD burden, optimize patient health outcomes, and control health care expenditures. Using eHealth to support CKD self-management has the potential to promote healthy behaviors and improve health outcomes of patients with CKD. However, knowledge of the implementation of such interventions in general, and in China specifically, is still limited.

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Development and Evaluation of Research Methods, Instruments and Tools

Approximately 14 million individuals in the United States are eligible for lung cancer screening (LCS), but only 5.8% completed screening in 2021. Given the low uptake despite the potential great health benefit of LCS, interventions aimed at increasing uptake are warranted. The use of a patient-facing electronic health record (EHR) patient portal direct messaging tool offers a new opportunity to both engage eligible patients in preventative screening and provide a unique referral pathway for tobacco treatment.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The geographical environments within which individuals conduct their daily activities may influence health behaviors, yet little is known about individual-level geographic mobility and specific, linked behaviors in rural low- and middle-income settings.

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Pilot studies (ehealth)

Physical inactivity is associated with adverse health outcomes among Asian Americans, who exhibit the least adherence to physical activity guidelines compared with other racial and ethnic groups. Mobile app–based interventions are a promising approach to promote healthy behaviors. However, there is a lack of app-based interventions focused on improving physical activity among Asian Americans whose primary language is not English.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Sedentary behavior (SB) is one of the largest contributing factors increasing the risk of developing noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Guidelines from the World Health Organization for physical activity suggest the substitution of SB with light physical activity. The Apple Watch contains a health metric known as the stand hour (SH). The SH is intended to record standing with movement for at least 1 minute per hour; however, the activity measured during the determination of the SH is unclear.

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Preprints Open for Peer-Review

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