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 COVID-19 pandemic created new challenges to delivering safe and effective health care while minimizing virus exposure among staff and patients without COVID-19. Health systems worldwide have moved quickly to implement telemedicine in diverse settings to reduce infection, but little is understood about how best to connect patients who are acutely ill with nearby clinical team members, even in the next room.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Diabetes apps represent a promising addition to face-to-face self-management interventions, which can be time and resource intensive. However, few randomized controlled trials have evaluated the efficacy of diabetes apps, in particular as a stand-alone intervention without additional clinical support.

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Early Results from COVID-19 Studies

The global adoption of teleconsultation has been expedited as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. By allowing remote communication, teleconsultation may help limit the spread of the virus while maintaining the crucial patient-provider relationship.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Only 3% of Latina teens meet the national physical activity (PA) guidelines, and these habits appear to persist into adulthood. Developing effective interventions to increase PA in Latina teens is necessary to prevent disease and reduce disparities. Mobile technologies may be especially appropriate for this population, but mobile health (mHealth) intervention content must be designed in collaboration with the target population.

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Early Results from COVID-19 Studies

A cross-sectional study (Miyara et al, 2020) conducted by French researchers showed that the rate of current daily smoking was significantly lower in patients with COVID-19 than in the French general population, implying a potentially protective effect of smoking.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Parents and caregivers are generally recognized by literature and the law as key to child and adolescent mental health decisions. Digital interventions are increasingly being used to support care and treatment in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). However, evidence of the design and development process is generally not made available.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Early clinical experience during the COVID-19 pandemic has begun to elucidate that the disease can cause brain function changes that may result in compromised cognition both acutely and during variable recovery periods. Reports on cognitive assessment of patients with COVID-19 are often limited to orientation alone. Further assessment may seem to create an inappropriate burden for patients with acute COVID-19, which is characterized by fatigue and confusion, and may also compromise examiner safety.

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Development and Evaluation of Research Methods, Instruments and Tools

The monitoring and management of chronic illness has always been a challenge. Patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) can be powerful tools for monitoring symptoms and guiding treatment of chronic diseases, but the available PROM tools are either too broad or too disease specific for the needs of a primary care practice focused on longitudinal care.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Although the incidence of breast cancer is lower in African-American women than in White women, African-American women have a decreased survival rate. The difference in survival rate may stem from poor endocrine therapy adherence, which increases breast cancer recurrence. Therefore, accessible and culturally sensitive interventions to increase endocrine therapy adherence are necessary.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

In recent years, online disinformation has increased. Fake news has been spreading about the COVID-19 pandemic. Since January 2020, the culprits and antidotes to disinformation have been digital media and social media.

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Development and Evaluation of Research Methods, Instruments and Tools

Knowledge of mental distress and resilience factors over the time span from before to after a stressor is important to be able to leverage the most promising resilience factors and promote mental health at the right time. To shed light on this topic, we designed the RESIST (Resilience Study) study, in which we assessed medical students before, during, and after their yearly exam period. Exam time is generally a period of notable stress among medical students, and it has been suggested that exam time triggers mental distress.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Since the emergence of COVID-19, health care workers and first responders have been at a high risk for mental health symptoms owing to their exposure to the virus and increased work stress during the pandemic. Although interventions exist to address mental health issues following exposure to disasters, emergencies, and humanitarian crises, considerably less is known about web-based unguided interventions to help mitigate the negative impacts of such events. Additionally, in contexts in which emergencies reduce access to in-person care, remote forms of support are critical, yet there are limited studies on the use of such interventions. Evidence-based, easy-to-use, scalable interventions are direly needed for this population.

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Preprints Open for Peer-Review

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Open Peer Review Period:

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