Evaluation Tools for Assistive Technologies: A Scoping Review

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2020 Jun;101(6):1025-1040. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2020.01.008. Epub 2020 Feb 12.


Objective: Assistive technologies (ATs) support independence and well-being in people with cognitive, perceptual, and physical limitations. Given the increasing availability and diversity of ATs, evaluating the usefulness of current and emerging ATs is crucial for informed comparison. We aimed to chart the landscape and development of AT evaluation tools (ETs; ATETs) across disparate fields in order to improve the process of AT evaluation and development.

Data sources: We performed a scoping review of ATETs through database searching of MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, HaPI, PsycINFO, Cochrane Reviews, and Compendex as well as citation mining.

Study selection: Articles explicitly referencing ATETs were retained for screening. We included ETs if they were designed to specifically evaluate ATs.

Data extraction: We extracted 5 attributes of ATETs: AT category, construct evaluated, conceptual frameworks, type of end user input used for ATET development, and presence of validity testing.

Data synthesis: From screening 23,434 records, we included 159 ATETs. Specificity of tools ranged from single to general ATs across 40 AT categories. Satisfaction, functional performance, and usage were the most common constructs of 103 identified. We identified 34 conceptual frameworks across 53 ETs. Finally, 36% incorporated end user input and 80% showed validation testing.

Conclusions: We characterized a wide range of AT categories with diverse approaches to their evaluation based on varied conceptual frameworks. Combining these frameworks in future ATETs may provide more holistic views of AT usefulness. ATET selection may be improved with guidelines for conceptually reconciling results of disparate ATETs. Future ATET development may benefit from more integrated approaches to end user engagement.

Keywords: Health care quality; Outcome assessment, health care; Rehabilitation; Self-help devices; access, and evaluation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Self-Help Devices*
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical*