BACKGROUND: Shifts in treatment strategies for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have made ambulatory care more labour-intensive. These developments have prompted innovative care models, including mobile health (mHealth) applications. This study aimed to explore the perceptions of mHealth-inexperienced stakeholders concerning these applications in RA care.
METHODS: We performed a qualitative study by focus group interviews of stakeholders including RA patients, nurses specialised in RA care and rheumatologists. The qualitative analysis guide of Leuven (QUAGOL), which is based on grounded theory principles, was used to thematically analyse the data. In addition, the Persuasive Systems Design (PSD) model was used to structure recommended app-features.
RESULTS: In total, 2 focus groups with nurses (total n = 16), 2 with patients (n = 17) and 2 with rheumatologists (n = 25) took place. Six overarching themes emerged from the analysis. Efficiency of care and enabling patient empowerment were the two themes considered as expected benefits of mHealth-use in practice by the stakeholders. In contrast, 4 themes emerged as possible barriers of mHealth-use: the burden of chronic app-use, motivational aspects, target group aspects, and legal and organisational requirements. Additionally, recommendations for an ideal mHealth-app could be structured into 4 domains (Primary Task Support, Dialogue Support, Social Support and System Credibility) according to the PSD-framework. Most recommended features were related to improving ease of use (Task Support) and System Credibility.
CONCLUSIONS: Although mHealth-apps were expected to improve care efficiency and stimulate patient empowerment, stakeholders were concerned that mHealth-app use could reinforce negative illness behaviour. For mHealth-apps to be successful in practice, challenges according to stakeholders were avoiding long-term poor compliance, finding the target audience and tailoring a legal and organisational framework. Finally, the ideal mHealth-application should above all be trustworthy and easy to use.