Exploring the Perceived Usefulness and Ease of Use of a Personalized Web-Based Resource (Care Companion) to Support Informal Caring: Qualitative Descriptive Study (Preprint)
Turk A., Fairclough E., Grason Smith G., Lond B., Nanton V., Dale J.
<sec> <title>BACKGROUND</title> <p>Informal carers play an increasingly vital role in supporting the older population and the sustainability of health care systems. Care Companion is a theory-based and coproduced Web-based intervention to help support informal carers’ resilience. It aims to provide personalized access to information and resources that are responsive to individuals’ caring needs and responsibilities and thereby reduce the burdens associated with caregiving roles. Following the development of a prototype, it was necessary to undertake user acceptability testing to assess its suitability for wider implementation.</p> </sec> <sec> <title>OBJECTIVE</title> <p>This study aimed to undertake user acceptance testing to investigate the perceived usefulness and ease of use of Care Companion. The key objectives were to (1) explore how potential and actual users perceived its usefulness, (2) explore the barriers and facilitators to its uptake and use and (3) gather suggestions to inform plans for an area-wide implementation.</p> </sec> <sec> <title>METHODS</title> <p>We conducted user acceptance testing underpinned by principles of rapid appraisal using a qualitative descriptive approach. Focus groups, observations, and semistructured interviews were used in two phases of data collection. Participants were adult carers who were recruited through local support groups. Within the first phase, think-aloud interviews and observations were undertaken while the carers familiarized themselves with and navigated through the platform. In the second phase, focus group discussions were undertaken. Interested participants were then invited to trial Care Companion for up to 4 weeks and were followed up through semistructured telephone interviews exploring their experiences of using the platform. Thematic analysis was applied to the data, and a coding framework was developed iteratively with each phase of the study, informing subsequent phases of data collection and analysis.</p> </sec> <sec> <title>RESULTS</title> <p>Overall, Care Companion was perceived to be a useful tool to support caregiving activities. The key themes were related to its appearance and ease of use, the profile setup and log-in process, concerns related to the safety and confidentiality of personal information, potential barriers to use and uptake and suggestions for overcoming them, and suggestions for improving Care Companion. More specifically, these related to the need for personalized resources aimed specifically at the carers (instead of care recipients), the benefits of incorporating a Web-based journal, the importance of providing transparency about security and data usage, minimizing barriers to initial registration, offering demonstrations to support uptake by people with low technological literacy, and the need to develop a culturally sensitive approach.</p> </sec> <sec> <title>CONCLUSIONS</title> <p>The findings identified ways of improving the ease of use and usefulness of Care Companion and demonstrated the importance of undertaking detailed user acceptance testing when developing an intervention for a diverse population, such as informal carers of older people. These findings have informed the further refinement of Care Companion and the strategy for its full implementation.</p> </sec>