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Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2013 Apr;65(4):594-600. doi: 10.1002/acr.21875.

Need for online information and support of patients with systemic sclerosis.

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University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands.



Interactive health communication applications (IHCAs) offer interesting possibilities to support systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients, since SSc is an uncommon, severe disease that needs a multidisciplinary treatment. This study aimed to investigate patients' needs for a hospital-based IHCA.


A survey study was conducted among a large sample (n = 429) of SSc patients of the University Medical Centre St. Radboud in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Patients were asked about their current disease-related internet use, their perceived importance of diverse information topics, and their usefulness of 8 widely used online health services. To examine how disease specific their needs were, the results of SSc patients were compared with the results of a sample of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients (n = 1,284).


In total, 746 patients (44% of the approached patients) returned a completed questionnaire and fulfilled all of the inclusion criteria. Of them, 569 (76%) had internet access. SSc patients used the internet especially for information (85%), and they expressed a need for information on physical, psychological, and social consequences of the disease. Concerning a hospital-based IHCA, e-consults, information about disease and treatment, and home access to their electronic medical records were perceived as most useful. SSc patients were more positive about the usefulness of the online applications than were RA patients, especially for e-consults and peer support forums.


It would be valuable to offer SSc patients a hospital-based IHCA, including the online information and support they desire. When taking the needs of patients into account, an IHCA could become a valuable addition to their regular treatment.

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