Background: Disease prevention via web-based interventions has matured into a relatively inexpensive health intervention alternative; however, few studies on web-based health promotion have been published. Despite the apparent potential of online health promoting communities (OHPC), not much guidance is available for developers on the basic design features that characterize successful applications. The aim of this study was to develop a checklist for a pre-launch evaluation of OHPCs. The checklist is required to take the perspectives of both the user community and the health services into account.
Methods: The study was based on an action research design. Constructs used in an evaluation for information system success, applicable before the introduction of the OHPC to the end users, were used as the basis for a checklist. Each construct was contextually adapted for the OHPC context and formatively evaluated in the case study project, and then organized into a checklist applicable to both the end-user community and the health care services.
Results: The checklist applicable to OHPC included the following constructs: information quality, service quality, and subjective norms. The contextual adaptation of the information quality construct resulted in items for content area, trust, and format. The contextual adaptation of the service quality construct resulted in items for staff competence, prompt service and empathy. The contextual adaptation of the subject norms construct resulted in items for social facilitation, interconnectivity and communication.
Conclusions: The most important result from the formative evaluation was the delicate balance between community autonomy and quality control in the formulation of the information and service quality constructs. Before the checklist is implemented, a comparison of the infrastructure and processes of the study context and the target context is needed to determine what aspects of the checklist are irrelevant. Future studies addressing health outcome constructs for use in OHPC evaluations are warranted.