JMIR Formative Research

Process evaluations, early results, and feasibility/pilot studies of digital and non-digital interventions

Editor-in-Chief:

Amaryllis Mavragani, Scientific Editor (Acting)


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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Pilot studies (ehealth)

Digital tools may support people to self-manage their heart failure (HF). Having previously outlined the human-centered design development of a digital tool to support self-care of HF, the next step was to pilot the tool over a period of time to establish people’s acceptance of it in practice.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Adult day services (ADS) provide community-based health care for older adults with complex chronic conditions but rely on outdated methods for communicating users’ health information with providers. CareMOBI, a novel mobile health (mHealth) app, was developed to address the need for a technological platform to improve bidirectional information exchange and communication between the ADS setting and providers.

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Development and Evaluation of Research Methods, Instruments and Tools

The development of digital health tools that are clinically relevant requires a deep understanding of the unmet needs of stakeholders, such as clinicians and patients. One way to reveal unforeseen stakeholder needs is through qualitative research, including stakeholder interviews. However, conventional qualitative data analytical approaches are time-consuming and resource-intensive, rendering them untenable in many industry settings where digital tools are conceived of and developed. Thus, a more time-efficient process for identifying clinically relevant target needs for digital tool development is needed.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Medication adherence and the management of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are crucial to the efficacy of antitumor drugs. A WeChat applet, also known as a “Mini Program,” is similar to the app but has marked advantages. The development and use of a WeChat applet makes follow-up convenient for patients with cancer.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Many intensive care unit (ICU) staff experience intrusive memories following work-related traumatic events, which can lead to long-term mental health outcomes and impact work functioning. There is a need for interventions that target intrusive memories in this population; however, factors such as mental health stigma and difficulty in fitting interventions into busy schedules can pose barriers. The Brief Gameplay Intervention For National Health Service Intensive Care Unit Staff Affected By COVID-19 Trauma (GAINS) study tested a brief, digital imagery-competing task intervention (including computer gameplay) with the aim of reducing the recurrence of intrusive memories, which holds promise for overcoming some of these barriers.

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Pilot studies (ehealth)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating anxiety disorders. Accessibility to CBT has been limited in Japan due to the shortage of therapists. While an open-source e-learning system can be used to create a simple internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) program, the safety and outpatient acceptance of this treatment approach have not been explored in Japan.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Prior studies have demonstrated that the e-cigarette market contains a large number of brands. Identifying these existing e-cigarette brands is a key element of market surveillance, which will further assist in policy making and compliance checks.

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Development and Evaluation of Research Methods, Instruments and Tools

Documenting the grant acquisition characteristics of a highly selective group of researchers could provide insights into the research and faculty development of talented individuals, and the insights gained to foster such researchers will help university management strengthen their research capacity.

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Development and Evaluation of Research Methods, Instruments and Tools

Delay discounting quantifies an individual’s preference for smaller, short-term rewards over larger, long-term rewards and represents a transdiagnostic factor associated with numerous adverse health outcomes. Rather than a fixed trait, delay discounting may vary over time and place, influenced by individual and contextual factors. Continuous, real-time measurement could inform adaptive interventions for various health conditions.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

The prevalence of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) has drastically risen in recent years. For some, self-management includes the use of GDM online communities on Facebook. Such communities can fill gaps in information and support that participants are not able to access elsewhere to address unmet needs. Given the popularity of sharing information about pregnancy on Facebook and the documented benefits of diabetes online communities, the same may be true of GDM online communities.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Supported self-management interventions, which assist individuals in actively understanding and managing their own health conditions, have a robust evidence base for chronic physical illnesses, such as diabetes, but have been underused for long-term mental health conditions.

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Formative Evaluation of Digital Health Interventions

Mental health care provision in the United Kingdom is overwhelmed by a high demand for services. There are high rates of under-, over-, and misdiagnosis of common mental health disorders in primary care and delays in accessing secondary care. This negatively affects patient functioning and outcomes. Digital tools may offer a time-efficient avenue for the remote assessment and triage of mental health disorders that can be integrated directly into existing care pathways to support clinicians. However, despite the potential of digital tools in the field of mental health, there remain gaps in our understanding of how the intended user base, people with lived experiences of mental health concerns, perceive these technologies.

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Preprints Open for Peer-Review

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