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The influencing contexts and potential mechanisms behind the use of online self-management support interventions: a realist evaluation.

Engelen, M., Gaal, B. van, Vermeulen, H., Zuidema, R., Bredie, S., Dulmen, S. van. The influencing contexts and potential mechanisms behind the use of online self-management support interventions: a realist evaluation. JMIR Human Factors: 2022, 9(3), Art. nr. e34925
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Background
Self-management can increase self-efficacy and quality of life and improve disease outcomes. Effective self-management may also help reduce the pressure on health care systems. However, patients need support in dealing with their disease and in developing skills to manage the consequences and changes associated with their condition. Web-based self-management support programs have helped patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but program use has been low.

Objective
This study aimed to identify the patient, disease, and program characteristics that determine whether patients use web-based self-management support programs or not.

Methods
A realistic evaluation methodology was used to provide a comprehensive overview of context (patient and disease characteristics), mechanism (program characteristics), and outcome (program use). Secondary data of adult patients with CVD (n=101) and those with RA (n=77) were included in the study. The relationship between context (sex, age, education, employment status, living situation, self-management [measured using Patient Activation Measure-13], quality of life [measured using RAND 36-item health survey], interaction efficacy [measured using the 5-item perceived efficacy in patient-physician interactions], diagnosis, physical comorbidity, and time since diagnosis) and outcome (program use) was analyzed using logistic regression analyses. The relationship between mechanism (program design, implementation strategies, and behavior change techniques [BCTs]) and outcome was analyzed through a qualitative interview study.

Results
This study included 68 nonusers and 111 users of web-based self-management support programs, of which 56.4% (101/179) were diagnosed with CVD and 43.6% (78/179) with RA. Younger age and a lower level of education were associated with program use. An interaction effect was found between program use and diagnosis and 4 quality of life subscales (social functioning, physical role limitations, vitality, and bodily pain). Patients with CVD with higher self-management and quality of life scores were less likely to use the program, whereas patients with RA with higher self-management and quality of life scores were more likely to use the program. Interviews with 10 nonusers, 10 low users, and 18 high users were analyzed to provide insight into the relationship between mechanisms and outcome. Program use was encouraged by an easy-to-use, clear, and transparent design and by recommendations from professionals and email reminders. A total of 5 BCTs were identified as potential mechanisms to promote program use: tailored information, self-reporting behavior, delayed feedback, providing information on peer behavior, and modeling.

Conclusions
This realistic evaluation showed that certain patient, disease, and program characteristics (age, education, diagnosis, program design, type of reminder, and BCTs) are associated with the use of web-based self-management support programs. These results represent the first step in improving the tailoring of web-based self-management support programs. Future research on the interaction between patient and program characteristics should be conducted to improve the tailoring of participants to program components.