The use of eHealth tools stands as a viable option for supporting chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)-specific self-management skills in some patients, according to a study that appeared in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Self-management strategies are important for COPD treatment guidelines; however, individual and structural barriers often lead to many patients with COPD lacking the support to implement such strategies. Using eHealth tools provides a means of circumventing barriers for these patients, but currently there is a lack of knowledge about the usage of these tools in this patient population.

To explore and describe the experiences of an eHealth tool over time and factors that might affect usage, researchers interviewed 16 people (12 women) regarding the usability of an eHealth tool, which provided evidence-based self-management treatment for patients with COPD, including texts, pictures, videos, and interactive components such as a step registration function with automatized feedback. Patients were divided into users and nonusers/seldom users depending on the number of logins and monthly usage.

According to the results, nonusers/seldom users (median 1.5 logins and 1.78 minutes spent on the site per month) reported low motivation, a higher need for technical support, and a negative view about the disease and self-management, and had problematic health literacy. However, users (median 10 logins and 43 minutes per month) felt more comfortable with information technology (IT) tools, had a positive view on triggers, and had sufficient health literacy.

Findings of this study indicate that the level of motivation, comfortability with IT tools, and the level of health literacy seem to affect usage of an eHealth tool over time,” the researchers concluded. “Besides, regarding behavioral changes, gaining benefits from the eHealth tool seems reserved for the users and specifically after 12 months, thus suggesting that eHealth tools can be suitable media for supporting COPD-specific self-management skills, although not for everyone or at all times.”

Keywords:  COPD, chronic disease, eHealth, primary care, qualitative content analysis, self-management.