Different motivations of patients with cancer for online informational and emotional support

Published on December 22, 2022 – The provision of informational and emotional support for patients with cancer should be tailored. Our research namely shows that we can distinguish three different types of patients based on their motivation for using the Internet. 

Understanding why patients seek informational and/or emotional support online is fundamental to providing patients with accurate and reliable support tailored to their needs, preferences and personal situation. Patients with cancer differ in the information and support they need and prefer, and accordingly in their (online) search behavior. Some patients predominantly seem to seek informational support to cope with their illness, while others seem mainly to seek emotional support.

With this study, ACHC-researchers Song Duimel, Annemiek Linn, Eline Smit, Julia van Weert (ACHC), together with their Amsterdam UMC-colleague Ellen Smets, therefore focused on (1) identifying typical patient profiles based on their motives for seeking informational and/or emotional support online, and (2) comparing these profiles in terms of patients’ psychological and background characteristics, and perceptions of health care services.

The results show that three types of patients with cancer can be identified based on their motives for seeking informational and/or emotional support online. In addition, these groups appear to differ in their level of eHealth literacy (i.e., the ability to search, find, understand and assess health information from electronic sources and apply the acquired knowledge to address or solve a health problem).

The insights from this study can be used to create awareness among health care providers, web designers, and patient organizations on different types of patients with cancer, and help them tailor recommendations to as well as the development of (online) resources to patients’ needs.

Read the article here.