How does an online patient-nurse communication service meet the information needs of men with recently diagnosed testicular cancer?

ISRN Nurs. 2012;2012:260975. doi: 10.5402/2012/260975. Epub 2012 Dec 4.

Abstract

Online communication has become a potential means of communication between patients and health care providers, but so far few studies are published about online communication as part of nursing care. The aim of this study was to explore how an online patient-nurse communication (OPNC) service meets the information needs of men with newly diagnosed testicular cancer. We applied a qualitative approach by examining the content of online messages sent by patients to nurses in a specialist cancer unit. In addition, individual interviews were conducted with patients who had used the OPNC service. Four themes became distinct through a synthesis of the material from the interviews and the messages: "a means for managing illness-related concerns at home," "a means for ensuring information flow," "a means for strategic information seeking," and "not yet available when needed most." Individualized information provided by nurses with access to their medical record was shown to be important to these patients. The findings of this study indicate that not only may access to an OPNC service help patients fulfill their otherwise unmet information needs, but also it may prevent delays and discontinuity in care due to informational gaps and lead to improved patient safety.