From information seekers to innovators: Qualitative analysis describing experiences of the second generation of E-patients

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Background: Current health care systems are rarely designed to meet the needs of people living with chronic conditions. However, some patients and informal caregivers are not waiting for the health care system to redesign itself. These individuals are sometimes referred to as e-patients. The first generation of e-patients used the internet for finding information and for communicating with peers. Compared with the first generation, the second generation of e-patients collects their own health data and appears to be more innovative. Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the second generation of e-patients through exploration of their active engagement in health and care. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 10 patients with chronic conditions and 5 informal caregivers. They were all recruited through a Web-based advertisement. Data were analyzed according to the framework analysis approach, using the 3 concepts of the self-determination theory-autonomy, relatedness, and competence-at the outset. Results: Study participants were actively engaged in influencing both health and care to improve the health care system, their own health, and the health of others. This occurred at different levels, such as using their own experience when giving presentations and lectures to health care professionals and medical students, working as professional peers in clinical settings, performing self-tracking, contributing with innovations, and being active on social media. When interaction with health care providers was perceived as being insufficient, the participants sought support through their peers, which showed strong relatedness. Competence increased through the use of technology and learning experiences with peers. Their autonomy was important but was sometimes described as involuntary and to give up was not an option for them. Conclusions: Like the first generation of e-patients, the participants frequently searched for Web-based information. However, the second generation of e-patients also produce their own health data, which they learn from and share. They also engage in the innovation of digital tools to meet health-related needs. Utilizing technological developments comes naturally to the second generation of e-patients, even if the health care system is not prepared to support them under these new circumstances.




Duncan, T. S., Riggare, S., Koch, S., Sharp, L., & Hägglund, M. (2019). From information seekers to innovators: Qualitative analysis describing experiences of the second generation of E-patients. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 21(8).

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