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Technological advancements have opened the path to many providers to easily develop and introduce eHealth tools to the public. The use of these tools is increasingly recognized as a critical quality driver in healthcare. However, choosing a quality tool in the myriad of tools available for a certain health purpose doesn’t come without challenges. To name a few, users are typically faced with tools that have not been evaluated for quality and fit and that often lack relevant features and functionality, making it quite challenging for both clinicians and patients to find, evaluate, and use the right tools.

Although there are various initiatives working on finding ways to assess the quality of eHealth tools, there is limited information and methods describing how to realistically assess and evaluate these tools in practice. Many of the existing initiatives have not been validated with the relevant stakeholders, and/or are conceptual without granular guidance on how to use and apply them in day-to-day decision making.

We want to contribute to this discussion to advance this area that is still being shaped and developed by analyzing and aggregating existing criteria through rigorous academic research and systematic review of existing frameworks, combined with a practice-oriented approach through discussing, pressure-testing, and co-creating a relevant and accessible toolbox with a diverse group of industry experts spanning all relevant stakeholder groups (clinicians, patient experts, pharma executives, insurance experts, investors, researchers, compliance experts, and med tech providers).

A practice-oriented and accessible toolbox

Having identified the conceptual nature of many existing assessment frameworks as a challenge, as practitioners oftentimes do not know how to use these frameworks in practice, we adopted a more practice-oriented approach. Our goal was to create an easy-to-use and practical toolbox that equips the relevant stakeholders with the relevant checklists, definitions, and interactive dashboard that makes the task of assessing the quality and impact of eHealth tools as practical and as accessible as possible. We discussed potential solutions with the industry experts, pressure tested the assessment criteria with them to ensure its clarity and usability. We also offer on-demand webinars and training workshops to equip potential users with the knowledge they need to properly use the toolbox (you can request a webinar or training workshop for your team on the Toolbox page).

Combining academic rigor with experiences from practice

Bringing academic research rigor together with the practical experience from the practice partners and industry experts ensured a solid approach to this research project that also balances the practical challenges that the stakeholders face in their day-to-day work and decision-making. Gaps and shortages of previous initiatives were discussed in detail with the practice partners and industry experts in order to close these gaps and offer a validated and practical toolbox.

An assessment toolbox that goes beyond technical criteria

Another gap that we identified was the focus on the technical criteria that characterized many of the existing frameworks and initiatives. However, healthcare technologies are generally more complex than tools that address one specific user need. They typically serve patients with comorbidities that are mostly treated by multidisciplinary teams of clinicians, potentially working across more than one organization. This particular nature of the healthcare sector calls for a wider view that goes beyond a tool’s technical aspects, since healthcare technology cannot be successfully implemented in isolation from the broader context in which it is being used. Therefore, our approach will also take social and organizational contexts into account in order to take a more comprehensive approach to eHealth tools’ assessment.

Many stakeholder groups in the healthcare ecosystem will benefit from the eHealth assessment toolbox:

The relevant stakeholders can request a webinar or training workshop for their teams on the Toolbox page.