Designing eHealth that Matters via a Multidisciplinary Requirements Development Approach

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    Background: Requirements development is a crucial part of eHealth design. It entails all the activities devoted to requirements identification, the communication of requirements to other developers, and their evaluation. Currently, a requirements development approach geared towards the specifics of the eHealth domain is lacking. This is likely to result in a mismatch between the developed technology and end user characteristics, physical surroundings, and the organizational context of use. It also makes it hard to judge the quality of eHealth design, since it makes it difficult to gear evaluations of eHealth to the main goals it is supposed to serve. Objective: In order to facilitate the creation of eHealth that matters, we present a practical, multidisciplinary requirements development approach which is embedded in a holistic design approach for eHealth (the Center for eHealth Research roadmap) that incorporates both human-centered design and business modeling. Methods: Our requirements development approach consists of five phases. In the first, preparatory, phase the project team is composed and the overall goal(s) of the eHealth intervention are decided upon. Second, primary end users and other stakeholders are identified by means of audience segmentation techniques and our stakeholder identification method. Third, the designated context of use is mapped and end users are profiled by means of requirements elicitation methods (eg, interviews, focus groups, or observations). Fourth, stakeholder values and eHealth intervention requirements are distilled from data transcripts, which leads to phase five, in which requirements are communicated to other developers using a requirements notation template we developed specifically for the context of eHealth technologies. Results: The end result of our requirements development approach for eHealth interventions is a design document which includes functional and non-functional requirements, a list of stakeholder values, and end user profiles in the form of personas (fictitious end users, representative of a primary end user group). Conclusions: The requirements development approach presented in this article enables eHealth developers to apply a systematic and multi-disciplinary approach towards the creation of requirements. The cooperation between health, engineering, and social sciences creates a situation in which a mismatch between design, end users, and the organizational context can be avoided. Furthermore, we suggest to evaluate eHealth on a feature-specific level in order to learn exactly why such a technology does or does not live up to its expectations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere21
    JournalJMIR research protocols
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2013


    • Health care information systems
    • Health informatics
    • Requirements analysis
    • Software design techniques
    • User-centered design


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