Qualitative Interview Studies of Working Mechanisms in Electronic Health: Tools to Enhance Study Quality

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DOI

  • Marianne Ts Holter, Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research (SERAF), Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
  • ,
  • Ayna B Johansen, Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research (SERAF), Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.
  • ,
  • Ottar Ness, Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway.
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  • Svend Brinkmann, Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
  • ,
  • Mette T Høybye
  • Håvar Brendryen, Norwegian Centre for Addiction Research (SERAF), Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.

Future development of electronic health (eHealth) programs (automated Web-based health interventions) will be furthered if program design can be based on the knowledge of eHealth's working mechanisms. A promising and pragmatic method for exploring potential working mechanisms is qualitative interview studies, in which eHealth working mechanisms can be explored through the perspective of the program user. Qualitative interview studies are promising as they are suited for exploring what is yet unknown, building new knowledge, and constructing theory. They are also pragmatic, as the development of eHealth programs often entails user interviews for applied purposes (eg, getting feedback for program improvement or identifying barriers for implementation). By capitalizing on these existing (applied) user interviews to also pursue (basic) research questions of how such programs work, the knowledge base of eHealth's working mechanisms can grow quickly. To be useful, such interview studies need to be of sufficient quality, which entails that the interviews should generate enough data of sufficient quality relevant to the research question (ie, rich data). However, getting rich interview data on eHealth working mechanisms can be surprisingly challenging, as several of the authors have experienced. Moreover, when encountering difficulties as we did, there are few places to turn to, there are currently no guidelines for conducting such interview studies in a way that ensure their quality. In this paper, we build on our experience as well as the qualitative literature to address this need, by describing 5 challenges that may arise in such interviews and presenting methodological tools to counteract each challenge. We hope the ideas we offer will spark methodological reflections and provide some options for researchers interested in using qualitative interview studies to explore eHealth's working mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume21
Issue5
Pages (from-to)e10354
ISSN1439-4456
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2019

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