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

First responders (eg, police, firefighters, and paramedics) are at high risk of experiencing poor mental health. Physical activity interventions can help reduce symptoms and improve mental health in this group. More research is needed to evaluate accessible, low-cost methods of delivering programs. Social media may be a potential platform for delivering group-based physical activity interventions.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Stress, burnout, and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are common, and can significantly impact workplaces through absenteeism and reduced productivity. To address this issue, organizations must first understand the extent of the difficulties by mapping the mental health of their workforce. Online surveys are a cost-effective and scalable approach to achieve this but typically have low response rates, in part due to a lack of interactivity. Chatbots offer one potential solution, enhancing engagement through simulated natural human conversation and use of interactive features.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) is an exercise-based program prescribed after cardiac events associated with improved physical, mental, and social functioning; however, many patients return to a sedentary lifestyle leading to deteriorating functional capacity after discharge from CR. Physical activity (PA) is critical to avoid recurrence of cardiac events and mortality and maintain functional capacity. Leveraging mobile health (mHealth) strategies to increase adherence to PA is a promising approach. Based on the social cognitive theory, we sought to determine whether mHealth strategies (Movn mobile app for self-monitoring, supportive push-through messages, and wearable activity tracker) would improve PA and functional capacity over 2 months.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Although many smoking cessation smartphone apps exist, few have been independently evaluated, particularly in older populations. In 2017, of the 112 commercially available smoking cessation apps in Australia, only 6 were deemed to be of high quality, in that they partially adhered to Australian guidelines. Mobile health (mHealth) apps have the potential to modify smoking behavior at a relatively low cost; however, their acceptability in older smokers remains unknown. Rigorous scientific evaluation of apps is thus urgently needed to assist smokers and clinicians alike.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Although many mobile health (mHealth) apps have evolved as support tools for self-management of breast cancer, limited studies have developed a comprehensive app and described the algorithms for personalized rehabilitation throughout the breast cancer care continuum.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The link between chronic diseases and the Big 6 lifestyle risk behaviors (ie, poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol use, sedentary recreational screen time, and poor sleep) is well established. It is critical to target these lifestyle risk behaviors, as they often co-occur and emerge in adolescence. Smartphones have become an integral part of everyday life, and many adolescents already use mobile apps to monitor their lifestyle behaviors and improve their health. Smartphones may be a valuable platform for engaging adolescents with interventions to prevent key chronic disease risk behaviors.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

New opportunities to create and evaluate population-based selective prevention programs for suicidal behavior are emerging in health care settings. Standard depression severity measures recorded in electronic medical records (EMRs) can be used to identify patients at risk for suicide and suicide attempt, and promising interventions for reducing the risk of suicide attempt in at-risk populations can be adapted for web-based delivery in health care.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Tinnitus Talk is a nonprofit online self-help forum. Asking inactive users about their reasons for discontinued usage of health-related online platforms such as Tinnitus Talk is important for quality assurance.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Despite the rapid adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) resulting from the reimbursement program of the US government, EHR adoption in behavioral hospitals is still slow, and there remains a lack of evidence regarding barriers and facilitators to the implementation of mental health care EHRs.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a major risk factor for stroke. The current opportunistic screening procedure consists of pulse palpation and an electrocardiogram when an irregular rhythm is found. Smartphone apps that measure heart rhythm could be useful in increasing the detection of AF in a primary care setting.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Social media platforms have experienced unprecedented levels of growth and usage over the past decade, with Facebook hosting 2.7 billion active users worldwide, including over 200 million users in the United States. Facebook users have been underutilized and understudied by the academic community as a resource for participant recruitment.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The use of ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to study youth experiencing homelessness (YEH) behaviors is an emerging area of research. Despite high rates of participation and potential clinical utility, few studies have investigated the acceptability and recommendations for EMA from the YEH perspective.

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Preprints Open for Peer-Review

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