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Drivers for successful long-term lifestyle change, the role of e-health: a qualitative interview study

12 Mar 2018

Objectives

Assisting patients in lifestyle change using collaborative e-health tools can be an efficient treatment for non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and chronic obstructive lung disease that are caused or aggravated by unhealthy living in the form of unhealthy diet, physical inactivity or tobacco smoking. In a prospective pilot study, we tested an online collaborative e-health tool in general practice. The aim of this study was to identify drivers of importance for long-term personal lifestyle changes from a patient perspective when using a collaborative e-health tool, including the support of peers and healthcare professionals.

Setting

General practice clinics in the Region of Southern Denmark.

Participants

10 overweight patients who had previously successfully used a hybrid online collaborative e-health tool with both face-to-face and online consultations to lose weight.

Results

The main themes identified were facilitators, barriers and support from family and peers. Establishment of a trustworthy relationship with the healthcare professionals was of paramount importance. It was important for the patients to monitor the measurable outcomes with realistic goals and feedback from a trusted person. Often, significant life events were identified as catalysts for successful long-term lifestyle changes. Dominant barriers to change were perception of insurmountable obstacles, experience of lack of self-efficacy and excess eating of high-calorie food. Finally, experiencing of trustworthy person-to-person forums, need for acknowledgement from referent others and support from family and peers were important drivers for long-term lifestyle change.

Conclusion

The most important driver in long-term weight loss was a strong relationship with a healthcare professional. Collaborative e-health tools can support the relationship and behavioural changes through monitoring and providing relevant feedback. The support from family and peers also matters, and long-term success depends on the ability to establish strong, positive support on a day-to-day basis.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open