Long-term condition self-management support in patient online communities.

Theme 5

Engagement with Self Directed Support

The problem:
Population aging has resulted in an increased prevalence of long-term conditions, which has resulted in increased expenditure on the care for those affected. As a consequence, self-management has become increasingly important in health care delivery.

The solution:
This meta-synthesis of qualitative papers seeks to explore the self-management of long-term conditions in the relatively new context of online communities.

The main gains found were:
• closing gaps in offline knowledge/experience;
• influence of modelling and learning behaviours from others;
• contact that validates illness and negates offline frustrations;
• tie formation and community building;
• narrative expression and cathartic release;
• ability to ask potentially embarrassing questions as online conversations felt more anonymous

The impact:
Social ties forged online provide the basis for performing relevant self-management that can improve an individual’s illness experience, tackling aspects of self-management that are particularly difficult to meet offline. This may be particularly true for those whose access to offline support is limited or absent. Help requires little negotiation online because information and support is gifted to the community by its members.
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