Background: Psychosocial eHealth interventions for people with cancer are promising in reducing distress; however, their results in terms of effects and adherence rates are quite mixed. Developing interventions with a solid evidence base while still ensuring adaptation to user wishes and needs is recommended to overcome this. As most models of eHealth development are based primarily on examining user experiences (so-called bottom-up requirements), it is not clear how theory and evidence (so-called top-down requirements) may best be integrated into the development process.
Objective: This study aims to investigate the integration of top-down and bottom-up requirements in the co-design of eHealth applications by building on the development of a mobile self-compassion intervention for people with newly diagnosed cancer.
Methods: Four co-design tasks were formulated at the start of the project and adjusted and evaluated throughout: explore bottom-up experiences, reassess top-down content, incorporate bottom-up and top-down input into concrete features and design, and synergize bottom-up and top-down input into the intervention context. These tasks were executed iteratively during a series of co-design sessions over the course of 2 years, in which 15 people with cancer and 7 nurses (recruited from 2 hospitals) participated. On the basis of the sessions, a list of requirements, a final intervention design, and an evaluation of the co-design process and tasks were yielded.
Results: The final list of requirements included intervention content (eg, major topics of compassionate mind training such as psychoeducation about 3 emotion systems and main issues that people with cancer encounter after diagnosis such as regulating information consumption), navigation, visual design, implementation strategies, and persuasive elements. The final intervention, Compas-Y, is a mobile self-compassion training comprising 6 training modules and several supportive functionalities such as a mood tracker and persuasive elements such as push notifications. The 4 co-design tasks helped overcome challenges in the development process such as dealing with conflicting top-down and bottom-up requirements and enabled the integration of all main requirements into the design.
Conclusions: This study addressed the necessary integration of top-down and bottom-up requirements into eHealth development by examining a preliminary model of 4 co-design tasks. Broader considerations regarding the design of a mobile intervention based on traditional intervention formats and merging the scientific disciplines of psychology and design research are discussed.
Keywords: cancer; co-design; eHealth; evidence-based; mobile phone; requirements; self-compassion.
©Judith Austin, Constance H C Drossaert, Jelle van Dijk, Robbert Sanderman, Elin Børøsund, Jelena Mirkovic, Marijke Schotanus-Dijkstra, Nienke J Peeters, Jan-Willem J R Van 't Klooster, Maya J Schroevers, Ernst T Bohlmeijer. Originally published in JMIR Cancer (https://cancer.jmir.org), 01.08.2022.