The design of a game-based training environment to enhance health care professionals’ skills in using eMental health: study protocol for the user requirements analysis

Joyce J.P.A. Bierbooms (Corresponding author), R.J.W. (Wouter) Sluis-Thiescheffer, Milou A. Feijt, Wijnand A. IJsselsteijn, Inge M.B. Bongers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


eMental health (EMH) offers various possibilities for mental healthcare delivery, with many studies demonstrating its clinical efficacy. However, the uptake of EMH technologies by mental healthcare professionals remains low. One of the reasons for this is the lack of knowledge and skills in using these technologies. Skill enhancement by means of serious gaming has shown to be effective in other areas already, but has not yet been applied to developing EMH skills of mental healthcare professionals.

The objective of this paper is to describe the study protocol for the user requirements analysis for the design of a game-based training environment for mental healthcare professionals to enhance their skills in EMH.

The user requirements will be formulated using three complementary outputs: personas (lively descriptions of potential users), scenarios (situations that require EMH skills), and prerequisites (required technical and organizational conditions). Data is collected by a questionnaire, co-design sessions, and interviews. The questionnaire is used to determine mental healthcare professionals’ characteristics, attitudes and skill levels regarding EMH and is distributed among mental healthcare professionals in the Netherlands. This leads to a number of recognizable (sub) user groups and forms the basis for the personas. Co-design sessions with mental healthcare professionals are used to further specify the personas and to identify different user scenarios for the game-based training environment. Interviews with mental healthcare professionals will help determine the preferences of mental healthcare professionals regarding training in EMH, as well as the technical and organizational conditions required for the prospective game-based training environment to be used in practice. This combination of requirements elicitation methods allows for a good representation of the target population in terms of both a broad view of user needs (through the large N questionnaire) as well as an in-depth understanding of specific design requirements (through interviews and co-design).

The questionnaire has been distributed and has been filled in by 432 respondents. Two co-design sessions with mental healthcare professionals and 17 interviews have also taken place. The data is currently being analyzed, which is expected to be finalized in the first half of 2020.

To develop an environment that can effectively support professionals’ EMH skill development, it is important to offer training possibilities that address the specific needs of mental healthcare professionals. The approach as described in this protocol incorporates the elements that enable the design of a playful training environment that is user-driven and flexible, at the same time considering the technical and organizational prerequisites that influence its implementation in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere18815
Number of pages37
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • mental health care
  • eMental health
  • skill development
  • game-based training
  • user requirements
  • protocol


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