Management of diabetes mellitus is complex and involves controlling multiple risk factors that may lead to complications. Given that patients provide most of their own diabetes care, patient self-management training is an important strategy for improving quality of care. Web-based interventions have the potential to bridge gaps in diabetes self-care and self-management. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of a web-based patient self-management intervention on psychological (self-efficacy, quality of life, self-care) and clinical (blood pressure, cholesterol, glycemic control, weight) outcomes.
For this cohort study we used repeated-measures modelling and qualitative individual interviews. We invited patients with type 2 diabetes to use a self-management website and asked them to complete questionnaires assessing self-efficacy (primary outcome) every three weeks for nine months before and nine months after they received access to the website. We collected clinical outcomes at three-month intervals over the same period. We conducted in-depth interviews at study conclusion to explore acceptability, strengths and weaknesses, and mediators of use of the website. We analyzed the data using a qualitative descriptive approach and inductive thematic analysis.
Eighty-one participants (mean age 57.2 years, standard deviation 12) were included in the analysis. The self-efficacy score did not improve significantly more than expected after nine months (absolute change 0.12; 95% confidence interval −0.028, 0.263; p = 0.11), nor did clinical outcomes. Website usage was limited (average 0.7 logins/month). Analysis of the interviews (n = 21) revealed four themes: 1) mediators of website use; 2) patterns of website use, including role of the blog in driving site traffic; 3) feedback on website; and 4) potential mechanisms for website effect.
A self-management website for patients with type 2 diabetes did not improve self-efficacy. Website use was limited. Although its perceived reliability, availability of a blog and emailed reminders drew people to the website, participants’ struggles with type 2 diabetes, competing priorities in their lives, and website accessibility were barriers to its use. Future interventions should aim to integrate the intervention seamlessly into the daily routine of end users such that it is not seen as yet another chore.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12911-014-0117-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.