Evaluation of three feasibility tools for identifying patient data and biospecimen availability: Comparative usability study

Schüttler C, Prokosch HU, Sedlmayr M, Sedlmayr B (2021)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2021


Book Volume: 9

Article Number: e25531

Journal Issue: 7

DOI: 10.2196/25531


Background: To meet the growing importance of real-word data analysis, clinical data and biosamples must be timely made available. Feasibility platforms are often the first contact point for determining the availability of such data for specific research questions. Therefore, a user-friendly interface should be provided to enable access to this information easily. The German Medical Informatics Initiative also aims to establish such a platform for its infrastructure. Although some of these platforms are actively used, their tools still have limitations. Consequently, the Medical Informatics Initiative consortium MIRACUM (Medical Informatics in Research and Care in University Medicine) committed itself to analyzing the pros and cons of existing solutions and to designing an optimized graphical feasibility user interface. Objective: The aim of this study is to identify the system that is most user-friendly and thus forms the best basis for developing a harmonized tool. To achieve this goal, we carried out a comparative usability evaluation of existing tools used by researchers acting as end users. Methods: The evaluation included three preselected search tools and was conducted as a qualitative exploratory study with a randomized design over a period of 6 weeks. The tools in question were the MIRACUM i2b2 (Informatics for Integrating Biology and the Bedside) feasibility platform, OHDSI's (Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics) ATLAS, and the Sample Locator of the German Biobank Alliance. The evaluation was conducted in the form of a web-based usability test (usability walkthrough combined with a web-based questionnaire) with participants aged between 26 and 63 years who work as medical doctors. Results: In total, 17 study participants evaluated the three tools. The overall evaluation of usability, which was based on the System Usability Scale, showed that the Sample Locator, with a mean System Usability Scale score of 77.03 (SD 20.62), was significantly superior to the other two tools (Wilcoxon test; Sample Locator vs i2b2: P=.047; Sample Locator vs ATLAS: P=.001). i2b2, with a score of 59.83 (SD 25.36), performed significantly better than ATLAS, which had a score of 27.81 (SD 21.79; Wilcoxon test; i2b2 vs ATLAS: P=.005). The analysis of the material generated by the usability walkthrough method confirmed these findings. ATLAS caused the most usability problems (n=66), followed by i2b2 (n=48) and the Sample Locator (n=22). Moreover, the Sample Locator achieved the highest ratings with respect to additional questions regarding satisfaction with the tools. Conclusions: This study provides data to develop a suitable basis for the selection of a harmonized tool for feasibility studies via concrete evaluation and a comparison of the usability of three different types of query builders. The feedback obtained from the participants during the usability test made it possible to identify user problems and positive design aspects of the individual tools and compare them qualitatively.

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Schüttler, C., Prokosch, H.-U., Sedlmayr, M., & Sedlmayr, B. (2021). Evaluation of three feasibility tools for identifying patient data and biospecimen availability: Comparative usability study. JMIR Medical Informatics, 9(7). https://doi.org/10.2196/25531


Schüttler, Christina, et al. "Evaluation of three feasibility tools for identifying patient data and biospecimen availability: Comparative usability study." JMIR Medical Informatics 9.7 (2021).

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