A comprehensive 6A framework for improving patient self-management of hypertension using mhealth services: Qualitative thematic analysis

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Journal of Medical Internet Research


Background: Hypertension affects over 15% of the world's population and is a significant global public health and socioeconomic challenge. Mobile health (mHealth) services have been increasingly introduced to support hypertensive patients to improve their self-management behaviors, such as adherence to pharmacotherapy and lifestyle modifications. Objective: This study aims to explore patients' perceptions of mHealth services and the mechanisms by which the services support them to self-manage their hypertension. Methods: A semistructured, in-depth interview study was conducted with 22 outpatients of the General Hospital of Ningxia Medical University from March to May 2019. In 2015, the hospital introduced an mHealth service to support community-dwelling outpatients with self-management of hypertension. Content analysis was conducted by following a grounded theory approach for inductive thematic extraction. Constant comparison and categorization classified the first-level codes with similar meanings into higher-level themes. Results: The patient-perceived mechanisms by which the mHealth service supported their self-management of hypertension were summarized as 6A: access, assessment, assistance, awareness, ability, and activation. With the portability of mobile phones and digitization of information, the mHealth service provided outpatients with easy access to assess their vital signs and self-management behaviors. The assessment results gave the patients real-time awareness of their health conditions and self-management performance, which activated their self-management behaviors. The mHealth service also gave outpatients access to assistance, which included health education and self-management reminders. Both types of assistance could also be activated by abnormal assessment results, that is, uncontrolled or deteriorating blood pressure values, discomfort symptoms, or not using the service for a long period. With its scalable use to handle any possible information and services, the mHealth service provided outpatients with educational materials to learn at their own pace. This led to an improvement in self-management awareness and ability, again activating their self-management behaviors. The patients would like to see further improvements in the service to provide more useful, personalized information and reliable services. Conclusions: The mHealth service extended the traditional hypertension care model beyond the hospital and clinician's office. It provided outpatients with easy access to otherwise inaccessible hypertension management services. This led to process improvement for outpatients to access health assessment and health care assistance and improved their awareness and self-management ability, which activated their hypertension self-management behaviors. Future studies can apply the 6A framework to guide the design, implementation, and evaluation of mHealth services for outpatients to self-manage chronic conditions.

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