Objective: Effects of self-monitoring depend on how patients engage with readings and how this engagement is used for managing chronic disease. This article reports on a study of how chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients made use of readings during 16 weeks of self-monitoring.
Patients and methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 22 COPD patients three times each: at the beginning, halfway through, and after the monitoring device was collected. Spouses of nine interviewees were present during one or more interviews. The analysis of how patients used self-monitored readings was based on critical psychology.
Results: Patients used readings to monitor bodily condition, to judge whether and when to contact health professionals, to communicate with health professionals about health management, to revise planned activities, to engage close relatives, and to motivate exercise and other health behavior. Self-monitoring can produce a sense of security as readings provide grounds for explaining symptoms and widen the scope of possibilities for taking action. Patients experienced readings as encouraging, reassuring, depressing, worrisome, and at times disturbing. A few patients involved themselves with readings in ways that are emotionally challenging and contrary to medical advice. Reasons for not making use of self-monitoring include good health or not regarding monitoring as relevant at the time.
Conclusions: Results can qualify the support health professionals offer in relation to patients' self-monitoring and self-management.