Researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health have developed critical considerations for healthcare practitioners and others who wish to build Internet-based intervention programs.

Six study coordinators and five principal investigators at a large, U.S.-based land grant university were interviewed about the process of developing online interventions in the areas of alcohol policy, adolescent health, medication adherence, and human immunodeficiency virus prevention in transgender persons and in men who have sex with men.

Corresponding author Keith Horvath said the main reason for conducting the study was to provide practical advice to others who may be in the process of designing online health interventions from the perspective of researchers with experience in conducting these types of studies.

The researchers said they identified seven common themes: (1) hire a strong (or at least the right) research team, (2) take time to plan before beginning the design process, (3) recognize that vendors and researchers have differing values, objectives, and language, (4) develop a detailed contract, (5) document all decisions and development activities, (6) use a content management system, and (7) allow extra time for testing and debugging your intervention.

"The values held by members of each participating organization involved in the development of the online intervention or program, as well as the objectives that are trying to be met with the website, must be considered," the researchers concluded. "These defined values and objectives should prompt an open and explicit discussion about the scope of work, budget, and other needs from the perspectives of each organization. Because of the complexity of developing online interventions, researchers and practitioners should become familiar with the process and how it may differ from the development and implementation of in-person interventions or programs."

The full study, published in the Journal of Internet Medical Research, is available here.

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