Participation in online patient support groups endorses patients' empowerment.
Institute for Behavioural Research, University of Twente, The Netherlands.
OBJECTIVE: Although much has been expected of the empowering effect of taking part in online patient support groups, there is no direct evidence thus far for the effects of participation on patient empowerment. Hence our exploring to what extent patients feel empowered by their participation in online support groups, and which processes that occur in these groups are related to the empowering outcomes. METHODS: An online questionnaire was completed by 528 individuals who were active in online groups for patients with breast cancer, fibromyalgia and arthritis. RESULTS: The respondents felt empowered in several ways by their participation. The empowering outcomes that were experienced to the strongest degree were 'being better informed' and 'enhanced social well-being'. No significant differences in empowering outcomes between diagnostic groups were found. The empowering outcomes could only be predicted in a modest way by the processes that took place in the online support groups. CONCLUSION: This study indicates that participation in online support groups can make a valuable contribution to the empowerment of patients. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Health care providers should acquaint their patients with the existence of online support groups and with the benefits that participation in these groups can offer.
PMID: 18778909 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]