The PICOTS-ComTeC Framework for Defining Digital Health Interventions: An ISPOR Special Interest Group Report



Digital health definitions are abundant, but often lack clarity and precision. We aimed to develop a minimum information framework to define patient-facing digital health interventions (DHIs) for outcomes research.


Definitions of digital-health-related terms (DHTs) were systematically reviewed, followed by a content analysis using frameworks, including PICOTS (population, intervention, comparator, outcome, timing, and setting), Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Measures, and the World Health Organization’s Classification of Digital Health Interventions. Subsequently, we conducted an online Delphi study to establish a minimum information framework, which was pilot tested by 5 experts using hypothetical examples.


After screening 2610 records and 545 full-text articles, we identified 101 unique definitions of 67 secondary DHTs in 76 articles, resulting in 95 different patterns of concepts among the definitions. World Health Organization system (84.5%), message (75.7%), intervention (58.3%), and technology (52.4%) were the most frequently covered concepts. For the Delphi survey, we invited 47 members of the ISPOR Digital Health Special Interest Group, 18 of whom became the Delphi panel. The first, second, and third survey rounds were completed by 18, 11, and 10 respondents, respectively. After consolidating results, the PICOTS-ComTeC acronym emerged, involving 9 domains (population, intervention, comparator, outcome, timing, setting, communication, technology, and context) and 32 optional subcategories.


Patient-facing DHIs can be specified using PICOTS-ComTeC that facilitates identification of appropriate interventions and comparators for a given decision. PICOTS-ComTeC is a flexible and versatile tool, intended to assist authors in designing and reporting primary studies and evidence syntheses, yielding actionable results for clinicians and other decision makers.


Zsombor Zrubka Annette Champion Anke-Peggy Holtorf Rossella Di Bidino Jagadeswara Rao Earla Artem T. Boltyenkov Masami Tabata-Kelly Carl Asche Anita Burrell

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