Accelerating Best Practices in Peer Support Around the World

What is the role of online support from the perspective of facilitators of face-to-face support groups?

What is the role of online support from the perspective of facilitators of face-to-face support groups? A multi-method study of the use of breast cancer online communities

Bender JL, Katz J, Ferris LE, Jadad AR

To explore the role of online communities from the perspective of breast cancer survivors who are facilitators of face-to-face support groups.

Seventy-three attendees (73% response rate) of a Canadian support group-training program completed a questionnaire examining when and why they used online communities. A purposive sample of 12 respondents was interviewed on how they used them in comparison to traditional supportive care. Survey responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics, and interview transcripts using a descriptive interpretive approach.

Online communities were used by 31.5%, mostly during treatment (73.9%), daily or weekly (91.3%), primarily for information (91.3%) and symptom management (69.6%) and less for emotional support (47.8%). Reasons for non-use were lack of need (48.0%), self-efficacy (30.0%), trust (24.0%), and awareness (20.0%). Respondents used online communities to address unmet needs during periods of stress and uncertainty. A multi-theory framework helps to explain the conditions influencing their use.

Online communities have the potential to fill gaps in supportive care by addressing the unmet needs of a subgroup of breast cancer survivors. Further research is required among typical cancer survivors.

Practice Implications:
Online communities could play an important role as a supplemental resource for a sub-group of breast cancer survivors.

Patient Education and Counseling; August 2013 [Full Abstract]

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