Value Specification

What is the value specification?

The value specification phase elaborates on the issues (problems or points for improvement) that were identified in the contextual inquiry. The outcomes of the contextual inquiry provide a general idea on the added values that a certain technology should have (e.g., users want to be able to use it whenever they want or need). However, these outcomes are not concrete enough to specify what is needed from an actual technology, so the value specification narrows down these identified issues. This is done by focusing on the exact added value of a technology, specifying the demands from the implementation context, and finding out what is required from the design of the technology by the identified key stakeholders (e.g., provide easy access via an online platform). A proper value specification assists in finding out what kind of goals the technology should reach according to stakeholders, and what should be done to reach these goals. Also, the value specification forces the development team to be precise, which helps them to deal with many implementation-related issues like adoption, financing, and use on the short and long term in time [1].

To achieve this fit between the demands from the context and the technology, it first has to be determined what added value a technology should bring to the current situation. In other words: what exactly should be improved or supported by means of an eHealth technology? What should its main goals be, according to the involved stakeholders? These so-called values can differ per key stakeholder, so it is up to the development team and stakeholders to prioritize them, and make decisions on how to cope with conflicting values. Based on this, a value map is created [2], this can be represented on a table which links every value with potential ways eHealth could serve it.

The value map is a subpart of another overarching activity that is relevant for the entire design process and which starts in the value specification phase: business modelling. A business model describes how the organization involved in the eHealth development creates, delivers and captures values. To put it simply: it describes how an organization conducts its business concerning the eHealth technology. A business model can be used to deliberate, plan, and operationalize the implementation of eHealth, by means of discussing the added value of an eHealth technology and what resources are required for the actualization of these values in practice. Therefore, business modelling, should already start in this phase of eHealth development, in which these values are being identified [3].

The identified values serve as input for the more specific requirements of the design of a technology, which state what exactly is required from the technology with respect to matters like software, hardware, content and design/presentation. Requirements prescribe design details like what a technology should do, what content it should display, what kind of data is used, and what kind of user experience it should provide in order to achieve the values. They serve as the blueprint for the to-be-developed technology [2].

The value specification phase is essential for good eHealth development, since the goals and scope of the technology should be clear before it is actually designed and used in practice. The entire development team should have a thorough understanding of what is required from a technology, to prevent mismatches between the context in which it will be used, the wishes of the stakeholders, and the technology.

What is the aim of the Value Specification?

The value specification process elaborates on the outcomes of the contextual inquiry. It is aimed at exploring what healthcare improvements are foreseen and what the possibilities or expected limitations are to realize the values. In this process the key stakeholders determine first their values (economical, social, and behavioral) and then rank them based on their importance for solving the identified problem(s). After specifying and ranking the stakeholders’ values, the eHealth goals can be formulated. The next step is to define the requirements to realize the values.

All in all, the value specification has several main objectives:

What are the outcomes of the value specification?

The value specification has two main outcomes, the first of which is a value map that contains the values that the technology should address. If a technology focuses on these identified values, it has a higher chance of being used, since it actually has added value for the current context and stakeholders. The second outcome is a list of requirements. These requirements will be used to develop the actual technology and serve as concrete tools to make sure that the wishes of the stakeholders and context are incorporated in the technology. Again, this increases the chances of the technology being used, since it fits the intended users.

The values and requirements should logically arise from the contextual inquiry. This ensures that the issues identified there are addressed, and that the context and stakeholders are constantly being kept in mind. If the value specification is conducted in a proper way, it assists in creating a good fit between the technology, context and stakeholders. As said before, this contributes to a successful implementation by delivering actual added value to practice, which, in its turn, increases the chances of reaching the intended goals.


[1] Van Gemert-Pijnen, J. E., Nijland, N., van Limburg, M., Ossebaard, H. C., Kelders, S. M., Eysenbach, G., & Seydel, E. R. (2011). A holistic framework to improve the uptake and impact of eHealth technologies. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 13(4): e111.

[2] Van Velsen, L., Wentzel, J., & Van Gemert-Pijnen, J. E. (2013). Designing eHealth that matters via a multidisciplinary requirements development approach. JMIR Research Protocols, 2(1):e21.

[3] Van Limburg, M., van Gemert-Pijnen, J. E., Nijland, N., Ossebaard, H. C., Hendrix, R. M., & Seydel, E. R. (2011). Why business modeling is crucial in the development of eHealth technologies. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 13(4): e124.