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Integrating a tailored e-health self-management application for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients into primary care: a pilot study

Viola Voncken-Brewster1*, Huibert Tange1, Albine Moser12, Zsolt Nagykaldi3, Hein de Vries4 and Trudy van der Weijden1

Author Affiliations

1 CAPHRI, Department of Family Medicine, Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht, Netherlands

2 Centre of Research on Autonomy and Participation of Persons with a Chronic Illness, Faculty of Health and Care, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, Heerlen, Netherlands

3 Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, United States of America

4 CAPHRI, Department of Health Promotion, Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht, Netherlands

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BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:4  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-4

Published: 8 January 2014



Changes in reimbursement have been compelling for Dutch primary care practices to apply a disease management approach for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This approach includes individual patient consultations with a practice nurse, who coaches patients in COPD management. The aim of this study was to gauge the feasibility of adding a web-based patient self-management support application, by assessing patients’ self-management, patients’ health status, the impact on the organization of care, and the level of application use and appreciation.


The study employed a mixed methods design. Six practice nurses recruited COPD patients during a consultation. The e-Health application included a questionnaire that captured information on demographics, self-management related behaviors (smoking cessation, physical activity and medication adherence) and their determinants, and nurse recommendations. The application provided tailored feedback messages to patients and provided the nurse with reports. Data were collected through questionnaires and medical record abstractions at baseline and one year later. Semi-structured interviews with patients and nurses were conducted. Descriptive statistics were calculated for quantitative data and content analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data.


Eleven patients, recruited by three nurses, used the application 1 to 7 times (median 4). Most patients thought that the application supported self-management, but their interest diminished after multiple uses. Impact on patients’ health could not be determined due to the small sample size. Nurses reported benefits for the organization of care and made suggestions to optimize the use of the reports.


Results suggest that it is possible to integrate a web-based COPD self-management application into the current primary care disease management process. The pilot study also revealed opportunities to improve the application and reports, in order to increase technology use and appreciation.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; e-Health intervention; Tailoring; Self-management; Smoking cessation; Physical activity; Medication adherence; Primary care