Objective: The purpose of this paper was to describe patients' use of a multi-component eHealth application, WebChoice, designed to support cancer patients in illness management. With WebChoice patients can monitor their symptoms, obtain individually tailored, evidence-based self-management support, ask questions to a clinical nurse specialist, communicate with other patients in a Forum, and use a diary.
Methods: To better understand what components were most helpful, we analyzed user logs of breast and prostate cancer patients who participated in the experimental arm of an RCT to test effects of WebChoice on clinical outcomes. Patients could freely use the system for one year. After 6 months into the study, participants received questionnaires asking about reasons for using the different WebChoice components and their usefulness.
Results: 103 (64%) patients actively used WebChoice, on average 60 times. The Forum and asking questions to the nurse were used the most, yet there were large individual variations in use patterns. Also, patients used different WebChoice components for different reasons. The e-mail communication with nurses was valued highest.
Discussion: Differences were found between breast and prostate cancer patients and between patients with a first time diagnosis and metastases or recurrences. The large variations among patients in their use of WebChoice components demonstrate that patients' needs for support vary.
Conclusion: The use patterns and patients' appraisals of usefulness in this study provide important insights into cancer patients' information and communication behavior that are important for further improvements and the design of eHealth applications for illness management support.
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