Assessing the needs and perspectives of patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on patient web portals: focus group study

Esther Metting*, Aaltje Jantine Schrage, Janwillem WH Kocks, Robbert Sanderman, Thys van der Molen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: As accessibility to the internet has increased in society, many health care organizations have developed patient Web portals (PWPs), which can provide a range of self-management options to improve patient access. However, the available evidence suggests that they are used inefficiently and do not benefit patients with low health literacy. Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are common chronic diseases that require ongoing self-management. Moreover, patients with COPD are typically older and have lower health literacy. Objective: This study aimed to obtain and present an overview of patients’ perspectives of PWPs to facilitate the development of a portal that better meets the needs of patients with asthma and COPD. Methods: We performed a focus group study using semistructured interviews in 3 patient groups from the north of the Netherlands who were recruited through the Dutch Lung Foundation. Each group met 3 times for 2 hours each at a 1-week interval. Data were analyzed with coding software, and patient descriptors were analyzed with nonparametric tests. The consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research were followed when conducting the study. Results: We included 29 patients (16/29, 55% male; mean age 65 [SD 10] years) with COPD (n=14), asthma-COPD overlap (n=4), asthma (n=10), or other respiratory disease (n=1). There was a large variation in the internet experience; some patients hardly used the internet (4/29, 14%), whereas others used internet >3 times a week (23/29, 79%). In general, patients were positive about having access to a PWP, considering access to personal medical records as the most important option, though only after discussion with their physician. A medication overview was considered a useful option. We found that communication between health care professionals could be improved if patients could use the PWP to share information with their health care professionals. However, as participants were worried about the language and usability of portals, it was recommended that language should be adapted to the patient level. Another concern was that disease monitoring through Web-based questionnaire use would only be useful if the results were discussed with health care professionals. Conclusions: Participants were positive about PWPs and considered them a logical step. Today, most patients tend to be better educated and have internet access, while also being more assertive and better informed about their disease. A PWP could support these patients. Our participants also provided practical suggestions for implementation in current and future PWP developments. The next step will be to develop a portal based on these recommendations and assess whether it meets the needs of patients and health care providers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2018


  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Electronic medical record
  • Health care
  • Health literacy
  • Internet
  • Self-management


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