Remote Recruitment Strategy and Structured E-Parenting Support (STEPS) App: Feasibility and Usability Study

Kasia Kostyrka-Allchorne, Petrina Chu, Claire Ballard, Nancy Lean, Blandine French, Ellen Hedstrom, Sarah Byford, Samuele Cortese, David Daley, Johnny Downs, Cristine Glazebrook, Kimberley Goldsmith, Charlotte L. Hall, Hanna Kovshoff, Jana Kreppner, Kapil Sayal, James Shearer, Emily Simonoff, Margaret Thompson, Edmund J S Sonuga-Barke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Structured E-Parenting Support (STEPS) app provides support for parents of children with elevated hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, and conduct problems who are awaiting clinical assessment. STEPS will be evaluated in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) within the Online Parent Training for the Initial Management of ADHD Referrals (OPTIMA) research program in the United Kingdom. Phase 1 of the OPTIMA tested the feasibility of participants’ recruitment and the app’s usability.

This study aimed to adapt a digital routine clinical monitoring system, myHealthE, for research purposes to facilitate waitlist recruitment; test using remote methods to screen and identify participants quickly and systematically; pilot the acceptability of the recruitment and assessment protocol; and explore the usability of STEPS.

myHealthE was adapted to screen patients’ data. Parents’ and clinicians’ feedback on myHealthE was collected, and information governance reviews were conducted in clinical services planning to host the RCT. Potential participants for the observational feasibility study were identified from new referrals using myHealthE and non-myHealthE methods. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the demographic and outcome variables. We estimated whether the recruitment rate would meet the planned RCT sample size requirement (n=352). In addition to the feasibility study participants, another group of parents was recruited to assess the STEPS usability. They completed the adapted System Usability Scale and responded to open-ended questions about the app, which were coded using the Enlight quality construct template.

Overall, 124 potential participants were identified as eligible: 121 (97.6%) via myHealthE and 3 (2.4%) via non-myHealthE methods. In total, 107 parents were contacted, and 48 (44.9%) consented and were asked if, hypothetically, they would be willing to participate in the OPTIMA RCT. Of the 28 feasibility study participants who provided demographic data, 21 (75%) identified as White. Their children had an average age of 8.4 (SD 1.7) years and 65% (31/48) were male. During the primary recruitment period (June to July 2021) when 45 participants had consented, 38 (84%) participants agreed hypothetically to take part in the RCT (rate of 19/mo, 95% CI 13.5-26.1), meeting the stop-go criterion of 18 participants per month to proceed with the RCT. All parents were satisfied or very satisfied with the study procedures. Parents (n=12) recruited to assess STEPS’ usability described it as easy to navigate and use and as having an attractive combination of colors and visual design. They described the content as useful, pitched at the right level, and sensitively presented. Suggested improvements included adding captions to videos or making the recorded reflections editable.

Remote recruitment and study procedures for testing a parenting intervention app are feasible and acceptable for parents. The parents felt that STEPS was a useful and easy-to-use digital parenting support tool.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere47035
JournalJMIR Pediatrics and Parenting
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2023


  • ADHD
  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • behavior problems
  • children
  • mHealth
  • mobile app
  • mobile health
  • mobile phone
  • parenting intervention
  • usability

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