Cancer patients' experiences of using an Interactive Health Communication Application (IHCA)

Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being. 2012;7. doi: 10.3402/qhw.v7i0.15511. Epub 2012 May 9.


Interactive Health Communication Applications (IHCAs) are increasingly used in health care. Studies document that IHCAs provide patients with knowledge and social support, enhance self- efficacy and can improve behavioural and clinical outcomes. However, research exploring patients' experiences of using IHCAs has been scarce. The aim of this study was to explore cancer patients' perspectives and experiences related to the use of an IHCA called WebChoice in their homes. Qualitative interviews were conducted with infrequent, medium and frequent IHCA users-six women and four men with breast and prostate cancer. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed inspired by interactionistic perspectives. We found that some patients' perceived WebChoice as a "friend," others as a "stranger." Access to WebChoice stimulated particularly high frequency users to position themselves as "information seeking agents," assuming an active patient role. However, to position oneself as an "active patient" was ambiguous and emotional. Feelings of "calmness", "normalization of symptoms", feelings of "being part of a community", feeling "upset" and "vulnerable", as well as "feeling supported" were identified. Interaction with WebChoice implied for some users an increased focus on illness. Our findings indicate that the interaction between patients and an IHCA such as WebChoice occurs in a variety of ways, some of which are ambivalent or conflicting. Particularly for frequent and medium frequency users, it offers support, but may at the same time reinforce an element of uncertainty in their life. Such insights should be taken into consideration in the future development of IHCAs in healthcare in general and in particular for implementation into patients' private sphere.

Keywords: Cancer; IHCA (Interactive Health Communication Applications); interactionism; the active patient's role.