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

Collecting data on daily habits across a population of individuals is challenging. Mobile-based circadian ecological momentary assessment (cEMA) is a powerful frame for observing the impact of daily living on long-term health.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, several mental health care providers were obliged to shut down outpatient services, including group therapy and psychoeducational sessions. The lockdown in many countries is a serious threat to people’s mental well-being, especially for individuals with severe mental illnesses. Discontinued outpatient treatments and disruption of daily routines are considered to be risk factors for destabilization of patients with mental illness.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Smoking is the leading cause of premature death, and low-income adults experience disproportionate burden from tobacco. Mindfulness interventions show promise for improving smoking cessation. A text messaging program “iQuit Mindfully” was developed to deliver just-in-time support for quitting smoking among low-income adults. A pilot study of iQuit Mindfully was conducted in spring 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, among low-income and predominantly African American smokers.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is common in adolescence and is associated with several adverse outcomes. Despite this, few established treatment options exist. Online treatment seems promising for several conditions; however, knowledge on NSSI is scarce. It is important to explore how online treatment for NSSI is experienced to improve such interventions and learn more about factors that are important in the treatment of adolescents with NSSI.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Supporting Our Valued Adolescents (SOVA) is a moderated and anonymous social media website intervention. SOVA ambassadors are adolescents and young adults (AYA) asked to write monthly blog posts and comments on others’ posts on topics surrounding mental health.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Following the end of a child’s treatment for cancer, parents may report psychological distress. However, there is a lack of evidence-based interventions that are tailored to the population, and psychological support needs are commonly unmet. An internet-administered low-intensity cognitive behavioral therapy (LICBT)–based intervention (EJDeR [internetbaserad självhjälp för föräldrar till barn som avslutat en behandling mot cancer]) may provide a solution.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The number of remote video consultations between doctors and patients has increased during the last few years and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The health care service is faced with rising rates of chronic illness and many patients who are more confident in self-management of their illnesses. In addition, there is an improved long-term outlook for serious conditions, such as cancer, that might require flexibility in everyday life.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Previous research has highlighted the role of stress in substance misuse and addiction, particularly for relapse risk. Mobile health interventions that incorporate real-time monitoring of physiological markers of stress offer promise for delivering tailored interventions to individuals during high-risk states of heightened stress to prevent alcohol relapse. Before such interventions can be developed, measurements of these processes in ambulatory, real-world settings are needed.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Loneliness is a public health concern, and increasingly, individuals experiencing loneliness are seeking support on online forums, some of which focus on discussions around loneliness (loneliness forums). Some of these individuals may also seek support around loneliness on online forums not related to loneliness or well-being (nonloneliness forums). Hence, to design and implement appropriate and efficient online loneliness interventions, it is important to understand how individuals who express and seek support around loneliness on online loneliness forums communicate in nonloneliness forums; this could provide further insights into the support needs and concerns of these users.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is recognized as a global health problem. Women with low education and limited resources are more vulnerable, as are immigrant women. There is a lack of evidence on how health care professionals should communicate about and intervene against IPV during pregnancy. Earlier research has shown that when women manage digital questionnaires, they are more likely to disclose IPV. However, little is known about how women experience eHealth interventions with safety behaviors to prevent IPV.

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Formative Evaluation of Non-Ehealth Innovations

There is a high prevalence of unexplained and unexplored obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) among patients with type 2 diabetes. The daytime symptoms of OSA include severe fatigue, cognitive problems, a decreased quality of life, and the reduced motivation to perform self-care. These symptoms impair the management of both diabetes and daily life. OSA may therefore have negative implications for diabetes self-management. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is used to treat OSA. This treatment improves sleep quality, insulin resistance, and glycemic control. Although the benefits of using CPAP as a treatment for OSA are clear, the noncompliance rate is high, and the evidence for the perceived effect that CPAP treatment has on patients with type 2 diabetes and OSA is poor.

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Preprints Open for Peer-Review

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