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A Comprehensive Guide to the Sociotechnical Framework for Assessing Patient-Facing eHealth Tools

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Zara Nwosu
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A Comprehensive Guide to the Sociotechnical Framework for Assessing Patient-Facing eHealth Tools

A Comprehensive Guide to the Sociotechnical Framework for Assessing Patient-Facing eHealth Tools

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With the digital era reshaping healthcare, the use of electronic health (eHealth) tools is becoming increasingly prevalent. While these tools offer immense potential for enhancing patient care and outcomes, their evaluation often lacks standardization, presenting numerous challenges. Confronting these issues, a new study published in npj Digital Medicine proposes a Sociotechnical Framework to Assess Patient-Facing eHealth Tools, validated by a global panel of experts. This article sheds light on this framework, its validation process, and its implications for the future of eHealth.

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The Sociotechnical Framework

The Sociotechnical Framework is a structured approach for evaluating eHealth tools that patients use. Unlike other assessment methods, it considers both social and technical factors, thereby providing a more comprehensive evaluation. The framework is centered around 46 criteria, classified into foundational and contextual, providing a holistic view of the eHealth tool’s performance.

The Validation Process

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The framework was refined and validated through a two-round modified Delphi process, involving 57 experts from 9 stakeholder groups and 18 countries. Initially, an assessment list of 55 criteria was proposed, which, after thorough expert review, was narrowed down to 46 agreed-upon criteria. This global consensus underlines the framework's robustness and applicability across diverse healthcare contexts.

The Surge in eHealth Adoption

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated the adoption of eHealth tools, spotlighting their potential for improving patient care. However, many of these tools fail to progress beyond the pilot phases due to challenges in demonstrating value and overcoming implementation barriers. The lack of standardized assessment frameworks exacerbates this issue, leading to conceptual and regulatory gaps. This entails that the safety, efficacy, and ethical compliance of certified eHealth tools cannot always be assured.

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The Need for the Sociotechnical Framework

The Sociotechnical Framework is a much-needed solution to these challenges. By considering both social and technical factors, it allows for a more nuanced assessment of eHealth tools. The framework's 46 criteria encompass not only the technical aspects of the tools but also the social and organizational factors impacting their effectiveness. This comprehensive assessment can help improve patient engagement and outcomes in eHealth.

Implications for the Future

The development of the Sociotechnical Framework is a significant advancement in the field of digital health, Health IT, MedTech, and HealthTech. By ensuring a structured and comprehensive evaluation of eHealth tools, it can pave the way for their successful implementation and widespread use. This will not only enhance patient care and outcomes but also contribute to the broader transformation of healthcare in the digital era.

As a collaborative project sponsored by Innosuisse, with FHNW as the research partner, and Roche and KPT - Die Krankenkasse mit dem Plus as the practice partners, the Sociotechnical Framework is a testament to the power of global cooperation in advancing healthcare. As we navigate the future of digital health, such collaborative efforts will remain integral to harnessing the full potential of eHealth tools for patient care.

Digital Health
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