An Autonomy-Supportive Online Decision Aid to Assist Smokers in Choosing Evidence-Based Cessation Assistance

Development Process and Protocol of a Randomized Controlled Trial


Background: Decision aids (DAs) may be used to facilitate an autonomous, informed decision to cease smoking and promote the uptake of evidence-based cessation assistance (ie, behavioral support, nicotine replacement therapy, or prescription medication). However, knowledge is lacking regarding their effective elements and (cost-)effectiveness.

Objective: We describe the development process of an online DA (called “VISOR”) that helps smokers to choose evidence-based cessation assistance. Additionally, we provide a description of the protocol of an ongoing randomized controlled trial in which the DA containing an explicit value clarification method (VCM) and tailored advice is compared with a DA without an explicit VCM and tailored advice.

Methods: The development of “VISOR” was based on the International Patient Decision Aid Standards guidelines. Viewpoints of end users (collected through 20 interviews with smokers) and clinical and scientific experts (assessed using 2 Delphi studies with 24 scientists and 38 clinicians) were assessed regarding cessation tool decision making and preferred DA content. These findings, together with principles from the Self-Determination Theory, served as input for the development of the online DA. A first DA prototype was alpha-tested in September 2019 and beta-tested for usability in December 2019; feedback was incorporated and resulted in a final version. The final DA contains (1) an information section, (2) an optional knowledge quiz, (3) a brief smoking assessment, (4) intuitive decision, (5) intermediate advice, (6) an explicit VCM, (7) tailored advice, and (8) access information. A randomized controlled trial is currently being conducted to assess the DA’s (cost-)effectiveness compared to a DA that does not include the explicit VCM and the tailored advice; specifically, the DA’s effect on smoking abstinence, uptake of evidence-based cessation assistance, smoking abstinence mediated through uptake of evidence-based cessation assistance, and decisional conflict are investigated. Participants are randomly allocated to receive access to 1 of the 2 DAs and are asked to complete 5 questionnaires (including the baseline questionnaire) over a period of 12 months. To evaluate the effects of the DA on the outcome measures, logistic and linear regression analyses as well as mediation analyses will be carried out. An economic evaluation will be performed to assess the cost-effectiveness.

Results: Data regarding the effect of the VISOR DA are currently being collected, and data collection is expected to be concluded in 2021.

Conclusions: By making use of an iterative process that integrated different stakeholders’ perspectives (including end users), we were able to systematically design an evidence-based DA. The study will contribute to the current knowledge regarding smoking cessation DA application, the added value of explicit VCMs, and the effect of behavioral and informed decision-making outcomes.

Trial Registration: Netherlands Trial Register NL8270;

International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID): DERR1-10.2196/21772

JMIR Research Protocols
Thomas Gültzow
Thomas Gültzow
Assistant Professor Societal Transition & Behaviour Change

I am a passionate researcher in the field of behaviour and decision making, specialising in informed decision making, behaviour change, and the influence of digital communication and interventions.