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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Patient communication in an online peer-to-peer forum for atrial fibrillation : an interpretive description Redman, Kirsten


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart arrhythmia. For people who experience symptomatic episodes, trying to identify triggers and maintain control can cause significant distress. While the sharing of personal experiences and stories occurs routinely on the Internet, the impact of having access to online AF-related information is unknown. The purpose of this study was to explore anecdotal and experiential knowledge about AF created online and elucidate information and support needs from a patient perspective. I employed a non-participant, observational design to tap into a uniquely patient-centred perspective by analyzing messages on a commonly available electronic message board used by AF patients. My analysis was guided by the Interpretive Description qualitative approach, and informed by the Experiential Health Information Processing model. In my analysis, I conceptualized four component parts to describe how participants interacted on the message board to take command of their AF: 1) sharing experiences and values, 2) searching for sense, 3) managing the complexities of information, and 4) acting as a wise consumer. The results demonstrated that many of the participants entered the message board with a common sense of mistrust in the pharmaceutical industry and desired non-pharmacologic approaches to AF treatment. The opinions of lay experts on the message board, anecdotal stories, and hyperlinked Internet data were all highly valued sources of information in the messages. Notable actions described by participants included manipulating anti-arrhythmic drugs and nutritional supplements to perceived symptoms of arrhythmia and using the board to select an ablation operator. I propose that there is an unmet need in the AF population for patient education regarding non-pharmacologic approaches to AF. Further research is suggested to examine the prevalence of complementary and alternative medicine use in the AF population and to support nurses encountering patients who present with information gained online.

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