Objective: To assess the engagement in and satisfaction with an Internet-mediated physical activity intervention with individual supervision in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: The intervention studied was one of the two strategies aimed at enhancing physical activity in RA patients that were being compared in a randomized controlled trial. A total of 82 patients, all experienced in using Internet and e-mail and registered at three different rheumatology out-patient clinics, were randomly allocated to the Internet-mediated individualized intervention (52 weeks). They had access to personal physical activity schedules and received individual supervision by a physical therapist by means of weekly e-mail feedback. In addition, telephone contacts, an online discussion forum, six face-to-face group meetings and electronic newsletters were offered. Besides registration of returned physical activity schedules, engagement and satisfaction were measured through questionnaires.
Results: The median physical activity schedule return rate of the 82 participants was 55%. The mean number of patients logging into the website at least once a week was 53 (70%) over 12 months. Of all patients, 69 returned the questionnaires (response 84%). Telephone contacts were used by 38/67 patients (57%), the mean (SD) number of attended group meetings was 3.1 (1.5) and the discussion forum comprised 15 posted messages. Overall, the proportions of patients being (very) satisfied with the amount of e-mail contacts, telephone contacts, usefulness of website information, physical activity schedules, group meetings and website layout were >/=85%. A smaller proportion of patients were satisfied with the links to other websites (68%), the newsletters (55%) and the online discussion forum (32%).
Conclusion: Physical activity schedules with weekly feedback by e-mail, telephone contacts and a limited number of group meetings were frequently used website tools and modes of communication of an Internet-based physical activity intervention, with high-satisfaction rates from RA patients. Discussion forum and newsletters were less used and appreciated. Caution should be taken when extrapolating the results found to groups of patients who are not experienced Internet and e-mail users or patients with more severe physical disabilities.