The usage, quality and relevance of information and communications technologies in patients with chronic urticaria: A UCARE study

World Allergy Organ J. 2020 Oct 30;13(11):100475. doi: 10.1016/j.waojou.2020.100475. eCollection 2020 Nov.


Background: Chronic urticaria (CU) is characterized by itchy recurrent wheals, angioedema, or both for 6 weeks or longer. CU can greatly impact patients' physical and emotional quality of life. Patients with chronic conditions are increasingly seeking information from information and communications technologies (ICTs) to manage their health. The objective of this study was to assess the frequency of usage and preference of ICTs from the perspective of patients with CU.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, 1800 patients were recruited from primary healthcare centers, university hospitals or specialized clinics that form part of the UCARE (Urticaria Centers of Reference and Excellence) network throughout 16 countries. Patients were >12 years old and had physician-diagnosed chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU) or chronic inducible urticaria (CIndU). Patients completed a 23-item questionnaire containing questions about ICT usage, including the type, frequency, preference, and quality, answers to which were recorded in a standardized database at each center. For analysis, ICTs were categorized into 3 groups as follows: one-to-one: SMS, WhatsApp, Skype, and email; one-to-many: YouTube, web browsers, and blogs or forums; many-to-many: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Results: Overall, 99.6% of CU patients had access to ICT platforms and 96.7% had internet access. Daily, 85.4% patients used one-to-one ICT platforms most often, followed by one-to-many ICTs (75.5%) and many-to-many ICTs (59.2%). The daily ICT usage was highest for web browsers (72.7%) and WhatsApp (70.0%). The general usage of ICT platforms increased in patients with higher levels of education. One-to-many was the preferred ICT category for obtaining general health information (78.3%) and for CU-related information (75.4%). A web browser (77.6%) was by far the most commonly used ICT to obtain general health information, followed by YouTube (25.8%) and Facebook (16.3%). Similarly, for CU-specific information, 3 out of 4 patients (74.6%) used a web browser, 20.9% used YouTube, and 13.6% used Facebook. One in 5 (21.6%) patients did not use any form of ICT for obtaining information on CU. The quality of the information obtained from one-to-many ICTs was rated much more often as very interesting and of good quality for general health information (53.5%) and CU-related information (51.5%) as compared to the other categories.

Conclusions: Usage of ICTs for health and CU-specific information is extremely high in all countries analyzed, with web browsers being the preferred ICT platform.

Keywords: (3–5) ICT; Apps, applications; CIndU, chronic inducible urticaria; CSU, chronic spontaneous urticaria; CU, chronic urticaria; HCP, healthcare provider; ICT, information and communications technologies; Information and communications technology; SEM, self-management education; SMS, short messaging service; Self-management; UAE, United Arab Emirates; UCARE, Urticaria Centers of Reference and Excellence; Urticaria.