Exploring the Use of Evidence From the Development and Evaluation of an Electronic Health (eHealth) Trial: Case Study
Journal article, 2020
Background: Evidence-based practice refers to building clinical decisions on credible research evidence, professional experience, and patient preferences. However, there is a growing concern that evidence in the context of electronic health (eHealth) is not sufficiently used when forming policies and practice of health care. In this context, using evaluation and research evidence in clinical or policy decisions dominates the discourse. However, the use of additional types of evidence, such as professional experience, is underexplored. Moreover, there might be other ways of using evidence than in clinical or policy decisions. Objective: This study aimed to analyze how different types of evidence (such as evaluation outcomes [including patient preferences], professional experiences, and existing scientific evidence from other research) obtained within the development and evaluation of an eHealth trial are used by diverse stakeholders. An additional aim was to identify barriers to the use of evidence and ways to support its use. Methods: This study was built on a case of an eHealth trial funded by the European Union. The project included 4 care centers, 2 research and development companies that provided the web-based physical exercise program and an activity monitoring device, and 2 science institutions. The qualitative data collection included 9 semistructured interviews conducted 8 months after the evaluation was concluded. The data analysis concerned (1) activities and decisions that were made based on evidence after the project ended, (2) evidence used for those activities and decisions, (3) in what way the evidence was used, and (4) barriers to the use of evidence. Results: Evidence generated from eHealth trials can be used by various stakeholders for decisions regarding clinical integration of eHealth solutions, policy making, scientific publishing, research funding applications, eHealth technology, and teaching. Evaluation evidence has less value than professional experiences to local decision making regarding eHealth integration into clinical practice. Professional experiences constitute the evidence that is valuable to the highest variety of activities and decisions in relation to eHealth trials. When using existing scientific evidence related to eHealth trials, it is important to consider contextual relevance, such as location or disease. To support the use of evidence, it is suggested to create possibilities for health care professionals to gain experience, assess a few rather than a large number of variables, and design for shorter iterative cycles of evaluation. Conclusions: Initiatives to support and standardize evidence-based practice in the context of eHealth should consider the complexities in how the evidence is used in order to achieve better uptake of evidence in practice. However, one should be aware that the assumption of fact-based decision making in organizations is misleading. In order to create better chances that the evidence produced would be used, this should be addressed through the design of eHealth trials.