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Researchers and practitioners of digital behavior change interventions (DBCI) use varying and, often, incongruent definitions of the term "engagement," thus leading to a lack of precision in DBCI measurement and evaluation. The objective of this paper is to propose discrete definitions for various types of user engagement and to explain why precision in the measurement of these engagement types is integral to ensuring the intervention is effective for health behavior modulation. Additionally, this paper presents a framework and practical steps for how engagement can be measured in practice and used to inform DBCI design and evaluation. The key purpose of a DBCI is to influence change in a target health behavior of a user, which may ultimately improve a health outcome. Using available literature and practice-based knowledge of DBCI, the framework conceptualizes two primary categories of engagement that must be measured in DBCI. The categories are health behavior engagement, referred to as "Big E," and DBCI engagement, referred to as "Little e." DBCI engagement is further bifurcated into two subclasses: (1) user interactions with features of the intervention designed to encourage frequency of use (ie, simple login, games, and social interactions) and make the user experience appealing, and (2) user interactions with behavior change intervention components (ie, behavior change techniques), which influence determinants of health behavior and subsequently influence health behavior. Achievement of Big E in an intervention delivered via digital means is contingent upon Little e. If users do not interact with DBCI features and enjoy the user experience, exposure to behavior change intervention components will be limited and less likely to influence the behavioral determinants that lead to health behavior engagement (Big E). Big E is also dependent upon the quality and relevance of the behavior change intervention components within the solution. Therefore, the combination of user interactions and behavior change intervention components creates Little e, which is, in turn, designed to improve Big E. The proposed framework includes a model to support measurement of DBCI that describes categories of engagement and details how features of Little e produce Big E. This framework can be applied to DBCI to support various health behaviors and outcomes and can be utilized to identify gaps in intervention efficacy and effectiveness.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: JMIR formative research
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