Evaluation of different features of an eHealth application for personalized illness management support: cancer patients’ use and appraisal of usefulness.

This paper’s intention was to describe patients’ use of a multi-component eHealth application, WebChoice, designed to assist 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. To better understand which elements were most helpful, 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 were analyzed. Patients could freely use the system for one year. Six months after launching the study, participants received questionnaires asking about reasons for using the different WebChoice components and how useful they were. 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. 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 differ.

The use patterns and patients’ evaluation of usefulness in this study provide important insights into cancer patients’ information and communication habits that are important for additional improvements and the design of eHealth applications for illness management support.