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Considerations for Improved mHealth Evaluation: Retrospective Qualitative Investigation (Preprint)

Abstract
Background: Mobile phone use and, consequently, mobile health (mHealth) interventions have seen an exponential increase in the last decade. There is an excess of 318,000 health-related apps available free of cost for consumers to download. However, many of these interventions are not evaluated and are lacking appropriate regulations. Randomized controlled trials are often considered the gold standard study design in determining the effectiveness of interventions, but recent literature has identified limitations in the methodology when used to evaluate mHealth.

Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate the system developers’ experiences of evaluating mHealth interventions in the context of a developing country.

Methods: We employed a qualitative exploratory approach, conducting semistructured interviews with multidisciplinary members of an mHealth project consortium. A conventional content analysis approach was used to allow codes and themes to be identified directly from the data.

Results: The findings from this study identified the system developers’ perceptions of mHealth evaluation, providing an insight into the requirements of an effective mHealth evaluation. This study identified social and technical factors which should be taken into account when evaluating an mHealth intervention.

Conclusions: Contextual issues represented one of the most recurrent challenges of mHealth evaluation in the context of a developing country, highlighting the importance of a mixed method evaluation. There is a myriad of social, technical, and regulatory variables, which may impact the effectiveness of an mHealth intervention. Failure to account for these variables in an evaluation may limit the ability of the intervention to achieve long-term implementation and scale.

More information

Type
Journal Article
Author
Dick S
O'Connor Y
Thompson M
O'Donoghue J
Hardy V
Wu J
Sullivan T
Chirambo G
Heavin C
Keywords
Year of Publication
2020
Journal
JMIR mHealth and uHealth
Volume
8
Issue
1
Language
eng
ISSN Number
2291-5222
DOI
10.2196/12424
Publication Language
eng