Background Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) encounter various problems with their medication use, including poor knowledge about disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)1, concerns about potential adverse consequences of their medication use2 and struggles with opening the medication's packaging3. Additional support might decrease those problems by targeting RA patients with (eHealth) interventions that address their needs. To date, no studies have explored RA patients' support needs regarding medication use from their own perspectives, and it remains largely unknown if, and to what extent, they perceive a need for eHealth interventions.
Objectives The objective of this study was twofold: 1) to explore RA patients' support needs regarding medication use; and 2) to gain insight into their perspectives on the applicability of eHealth interventions to address those needs.
Methods Three focus groups with 28 RA patients (mean age: 65 years, mean disease duration: 19 years) were conducted. All focus groups were audio-recorded and subsequently transcribed verbatim. Two researchers independently conducted an inductive, thematic analysis on the transcripts.
Results Three themes that described RA patients' support needs regarding medication use were identified: 1) Informational support; 2) Practical support; and 3) Emotional and behavioral support. Informational support refers to the provision of knowledge and facts, including advice, suggestions and feedback from healthcare providers. Practical support includes the strengthening of technical skills (e.g. administering subcutaneous injections), as well as the provision of goods and services. Emotional and behavioral support refers to the interventions enabling RA patients to better cope with their medication use. Their perspectives on the applicability of eHealth interventions to address those needs were also identified. RA patients recognized potential advantages of eHealth interventions, such as being less time consuming and easily accessible. However, concerns on matters such as privacy, the quality and trustworthiness of information and personal interaction with healthcare providers prevailed.
Conclusions For most RA patients, informational support regarding medication use is the most important (unmet) need. High-quality, unambiguous information about their medication use was emphasised. Moreover, this information should be provided by healthcare providers on an ongoing basis and tailored to their personal situation. Eliminating RA patients' concerns regarding eHealth interventions should be a first priority before such interventions are applicable to address these informational needs. These findings need to be confirmed in a sample of younger RA patients.
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Disclosure of Interest None declared