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Use of Online Health Forums by Patients with Chronic Cough: Qualitative Study

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Abstract

Background: Online health discussion forums are used by different patient groups for sharing advice and information. Chronic cough is a common problem, and people with chronic cough use online health forums alongside formal medical therapies.

Objective: The objective of this study was to assess how chronic cough sufferers use online health forums, including the treatment advice they share with one another and the possible clinical uses of online forums in chronic cough.

Methods: Three open-access health forums were searched for threads related to chronic cough. Identified threads were screened against inclusion and exclusion criteria adapted from the British Thoracic Society (BTS) Guidelines related to chronic cough diagnosis. Included data were subjected to qualitative thematic analysis. All study data were cross-validated by a second author and discrepancies were resolved.

Results: In total, 96 threads were included in the analysis, consisting of posts by 223 forum users. Three main themes were identified: the effect of chronic cough on the lives of patients, the treatment advice shared between users, and the provision of support within forums.

Conclusions: Chronic cough symptoms had impacts on multiple aspects of patients’ health and well-being. To try and combat these issues, forum users suggested a variety of treatments to one another, ranging from mainstream traditional therapies to odd alternative remedies. The provision of support and empathy were also prominent themes in discussion threads. Online forums themselves may provide increasing benefit to users through the addition of a moderator.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere19
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 24 Jan 2018
Peer-reviewedYes

Keywords

    Research areas

  • cough, chronic disease, Internet, eHealth, health impact assessment, information systems, help-seeking behavior, social support

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