Patients' perspectives on high-tech home care: a qualitative inquiry into the user-friendliness of four technologies

BMC Health Serv Res. 2004 Oct 5;4(1):28. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-4-28.


Background: The delivery of technology-enhanced home care is growing in most industrialized countries. The objective of our study was to document, from the patient's perspective, how the level of user-friendliness of medical technology influences its integration into the private and social lives of patients. Understanding what makes a technology user-friendly should help improve the design of home care services.

Methods: Four home care interventions that are frequently used and vary in their technical and clinical features were selected: Antibiotic intravenous therapy, parenteral nutrition, peritoneal dialysis and oxygen therapy. Our qualitative study relied on the triangulation of three sources of data: 1) interviews with patients (n = 16); 2) interviews with carers (n = 6); and 3) direct observation of nursing visits of a different set of patients (n = 16). Participants of varying socioeconomic status were recruited through primary care organizations and hospitals that deliver home care within 100 km of Montreal, the largest urban area in the province of Quebec, Canada.

Results: The four interventions have both a negative and positive effect on patients' lives. These technologies were rarely perceived as user-friendly, and user-acceptance was closely linked to user-competence. Compared with acute I.V. patients, who tended to be passive, chronic patients seemed keener to master technical aspects. While some of the technical and human barriers were managed well in the home setting, engaging in the social world was more problematic. Most patients found it difficult to maintain a regular job because of the high frequency of treatment, while some carers found their autonomy and social lives restricted. Patients also tended to withdraw from social activities because of social stigmatization and technical barriers.

Conclusions: While technology contributes to improving the patients' health, it also imposes significant constraints on their lives. Policies aimed at developing home care must clearly integrate principles and resources supporting the appropriate use of technology. Close monitoring of patients should be part of all technology-enhanced home care programs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Caregivers / statistics & numerical data
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Female
  • Hemodialysis, Home / instrumentation
  • Hemodialysis, Home / psychology*
  • Home Care Services*
  • Home Infusion Therapy / instrumentation
  • Home Infusion Therapy / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Man-Machine Systems
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / instrumentation
  • Oxygen Inhalation Therapy / psychology*
  • Parenteral Nutrition, Home / instrumentation
  • Parenteral Nutrition, Home / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quebec
  • Self-Help Devices / psychology*
  • Sickness Impact Profile*
  • Urban Population
  • User-Computer Interface