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Self-management is considered as an essential component of chronic care by primary care professionals. eHealth is expected to play an important role in supporting patients in their self-management. For effective implementation of eHealth it is important to investigate patients’ expectations and needs regarding self-management and eHealth. The objectives of this study are to investigate expectations and needs of people with a chronic condition regarding self-management and eHealth for self-management purposes, their willingness to use eHealth, and possible differences between patient groups regarding these topics.
Five focus groups with people with diabetes (n = 14), COPD (n = 9), and a cardiovascular condition (n = 7) were conducted in this qualitative research. Separate focus groups were organized based on patients’ chronic condition. The following themes were discussed: 1) the impact of the chronic disease on patients’ daily life; 2) their opinions and needs regarding self-management; and 3) their expectations and needs regarding, and willingness to use, eHealth for self-management purposes. A conventional content analysis approach was used for coding.
Patient groups seem to differ in expectations and needs regarding self-management and eHealth for self-management purposes. People with diabetes reported most needs and benefits regarding self-management and were most willing to use eHealth, followed by the COPD group. People with a cardiovascular condition mentioned having fewer needs for self-management support, because their disease had little impact on their life. In all patient groups it was reported that the patient, not the care professional, should choose whether or not to use eHealth. Moreover, participants reported that eHealth should not replace, but complement personal care. Many participants reported expecting feelings of anxiety by doing measurement themselves and uncertainty about follow-up of deviant data of measurements. In addition, many participants worried about the implementation of eHealth being a consequence of budget cuts in care.
This study suggests that aspects of eHealth, and the way in which it should be implemented, should be tailored to the patient. Patients’ expected benefits of using eHealth to support self-management and their perceived controllability over their disease seem to play an important role in patients’ willingness to use eHealth for self-management purposes.