Background: Success with lifestyle change, such as weight loss, tobacco cessation, and increased activity level, using electronic health (eHealth) has been demonstrated in numerous studies short term. However, evidence on how to maintain the effect long-term has not been fully explored, even though there is a pressing need for long-term solutions. Recent studies indicate that weight loss can be achieved and maintained over 12 and 20 months in a primary care setting using a collaborative eHealth tool. The effect of collaborative eHealth in promoting lifestyle changes depends on competent and skilled dieticians, nurses, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists acting as eHealth coaches. How such health care professionals perceive delivering asynchronous eHealth coaching and which determinants they find to be essential to achieving successful long-term lifestyle coaching have only been briefly explored and deserve further exploration. Objective: The aim of this study is to analyze how health care professionals perceive eHealth coaching and to explore what influences successful long-term lifestyle change for patients undergoing hybrid eHealth coaching using a collaborative eHealth tool. Methods: A total of 10 health care professionals were recruited by purposive sampling. They were all women aged 36 to 65 years of age with a mean age of 48 years of age. A total of 8/10 (80%) had more than 15 years of experience in their field, and all had more than six months of experience providing eHealth lifestyle coaching using a combination of face-to-face meetings and asynchronous eHealth coaching. They worked in 5 municipalities in the Region of Southern Denmark. We performed individual, qualitative, semistructured, in-depth interviews in their workplace about their experiences with health coaching about lifestyle change, both for their patients and for themselves, and mainly how they perceived using a collaborative eHealth solution as a part of their work. Results: The health care professionals all found establishing and maintaining an empathic relationship essential and that asynchronous eHealth lifestyle coaching challenged this compared to face-to-face coaching. The primary reason was that unlike typical in-person encounters in health care, they did not receive immediate feedback from the patients. We identified four central themes relevant to the health care professionals in their asynchronous eHealth coaching: (1) establishing an empathic relationship, (2) reflection in asynchronous eHealth coaching, (3) identifying realistic goals based on personal barriers, and (4) staying connected in asynchronous coaching. Conclusions: Establishing and maintaining an empathic relationship is probably the most crucial factor for successful subsequent eHealth coaching. It was of paramount importance to get to know the patient first, and the asynchronous interaction aspect presented challenges because of the delay in response times (both ways). It also presented opportunities for reflection before answering. The health care professionals found they had to provide both relational communication and goal-oriented coaching when using eHealth solutions. Going forward, the quality of the health care professional–patient interaction will need attention if patients are to benefit from collaborative eHealth coaching fully.
Brandt, C. J., Isidora Søgaard, G., Clemensen, J., Søndergaard, J., & Bo Nielsen, J. (2018). Determinants of successful ehealth coaching for consumer lifestyle changes: Qualitative interview study among health care professionals. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(7). https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.9791