Background: Many users of Internet interventions do not persist with the full treatment program. As persistence may influence outcomes of such interventions, being able to maximize persistence is vital. However, while studies have begun to explore the predictors of dropout in Internet interventions, few have explored reasons why users persist with the programs, which may not just be the converse of the reasons for dropout.
Objective: To answer the question of what influences persistence with online interventions.
Methods: We interviewed participants in the Cardiovascular Risk E-couch Depression Outcome (CREDO), a trial evaluating the efficacy of an eHealth intervention (e-couch) in treating depressive symptoms in those with comorbid depression and cardiovascular risk factors. Interviews were semistructured in nature and were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Interview numbers were curtailed (n = 12) after theoretical saturation.
Results: All participants reported substantial barriers to completing the program including time constraints, competing priorities, anxiety about spending time on the computer, and perception of limited worth of the intervention. Participants who persisted with the trial reported intrinsic motivations such as personal values about task completion and sense of control, and recognized external motivators that aided the development of habits and identified personal benefits attributable to the program.
Conclusions: Online interventions may benefit from content that enhances the intrinsic motivations such as a having sense of control and being able to identify with the program, and by increasing the relative value of the program in order to enhance persistence. Persistence within a trial setting appears modifiable through explicit messages regarding supporting others. In terms of motivators, the use of a hook to engage participants who are starting the intervention due to curiosity and the use of reminder systems to prompt participants may also improve persistence. The worth of such additions should be evaluated using adherence and outcomes metrics.
Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR): ACTRN12610000085077; http://www.anzctr.org.au/ACTRN12610000085077.aspx (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/68MtyPO3w).