Single-case experimental designs to evaluate novel technology-based health interventions

J Med Internet Res. 2013 Feb 8;15(2):e22. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2227.


Technology-based interventions to promote health are expanding rapidly. Assessing the preliminary efficacy of these interventions can be achieved by employing single-case experiments (sometimes referred to as n-of-1 studies). Although single-case experiments are often misunderstood, they offer excellent solutions to address the challenges associated with testing new technology-based interventions. This paper provides an introduction to single-case techniques and highlights advances in developing and evaluating single-case experiments, which help ensure that treatment outcomes are reliable, replicable, and generalizable. These advances include quality control standards, heuristics to guide visual analysis of time-series data, effect size calculations, and statistical analyses. They also include experimental designs to isolate the active elements in a treatment package and to assess the mechanisms of behavior change. The paper concludes with a discussion of issues related to the generality of findings derived from single-case research and how generality can be established through replication and through analysis of behavioral mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Health Promotion / standards
  • Health Promotion / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Quality Control
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • Telemedicine / standards
  • Telemedicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Treatment Outcome