Evidence based evaluation of eHealth interventions: A systematic literature review
Journal article, 2018
Background: Until now, the use of technology in health care was driven mostly by the assumptions about the benefits of electronic health (eHealth) rather than its evidence. It is noticeable that the magnitude of evidence of effectiveness and efficiency of eHealth is not proportionate to the number of interventions that are regularly conducted. Reliable evidence generated through comprehensive evaluation of eHealth interventions may accelerate the growth of eHealth for long-term successful implementation and help to experience eHealth benefits in an enhanced way.
Objective: This study aimed to understand how the evidence of effectiveness and efficiency of eHealth can be generated through evaluation. Hence, we aim to discern (1) how evaluation is conducted in distinct eHealth intervention phases, (2) the aspects of effectiveness and efficiency that are typically evaluated during eHealth interventions, and (3) how eHealth interventions are evaluated in practice.
Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted to explore the evaluation methods for eHealth interventions. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed. We searched Google Scholar and Scopus for the published papers that addressed the evaluation of eHealth or described an eHealth intervention study. A qualitative analysis of the selected papers was conducted in several steps.
Results: We intended to see how the process of evaluation unfolds in distinct phases of an eHealth intervention. We revealed that in practice and in several conceptual papers, evaluation is performed at the end of the intervention. There are some studies that discuss the importance of conducting evaluation throughout the intervention; however, in practice, we found no case study that followed this. For our second research question, we discovered aspects of efficiency and effectiveness that are proposed to be assessed during interventions. The aspects that were recurrent in the conceptual papers include clinical, human and social, organizational, technological, cost, ethical and legal, and transferability. However, the case studies reviewed only evaluate the clinical and human and social aspects. At the end of the paper, we discussed a novel approach to look into the evaluation. Our intention was to stir up a discussion around this approach with the hope that it might be able to gather evidence in a comprehensive and credible way.
Conclusions: The importance of evidence in eHealth has not been discussed as rigorously as have the diverse evaluation approaches and evaluation frameworks. Further research directed toward evidence-based evaluation can not only improve the quality of intervention studies but also facilitate successful long-term implementation of eHealth in general. We conclude that the development of more robust and comprehensive evaluation of eHealth studies or an improved validation of evaluation methods could ease the transferability of results among similar studies. Thus, the resources can be used for supplementary research in eHealth.