Can Social Support Work Virtually? the Impact of an Interactive On-line Tool on Health Outcomes Among ra Patients
1Institute of Health Communication
Background: Although there is much evidenced of the social support effects on health, there is limited information about to what extent social support can be provided online and the conditions under which such support can have positive outcomes for chronic pain patients. The aim of this study is to examine the impact of an online social support tool on patients’ health outcomes and to identify the determinants that impact the usage and the efficiency of such a tool. Methods: we used a mixed approach and at the first stage we conducted an experimental quantitative study with 160 ---- (RA) patients interacting on a web site that we developed previously using an online questionnaire. At the second stage we conducted 20 in-depth interviews with RA patients evaluating what determined the usage and the impact of the site. Findings: Online support improved more concrete outcomes related to the daily management of the disease, but was less successful at deeper self-perceptions such as empowerment and acceptance. These results are explained by some determinants like the characteristics of the web source; the internal and external experience with the disease; illness dimensions and personality type. Discussion: defining the factors that determine patients’ usage of online support lead to recommendations for designing future tools in order to maximize the effectiveness in delivering online support.