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The University of Southampton

Research project: PRimary care Infection Management for Everday practice (PRIME)

Currently Active: 

A primary care trial of a tailored interactive website for the self-management of respiratory infections.

Almost everyone suffers a respiratory infection each year, many suffer more than one, and a significant minority suffer chronic and recurrent illness. Acute respiratory infections are still one of the commonest reasons for sickness certification – representing a huge burden to society.

This study will investigate the effectiveness of the ‘Internet Doctor’ – a website designed to give tailored interactive information and advice to individuals about minor respiratory symptoms. The study will assess whether the website can empower patients, improve symptom management, and reduce attendance at GP surgeries and therefore the burden on health service resources.

The Internet Doctor provides personalised advice on a) whether and why the patient needs/does not need to consult NHS Direct, and b) how to self-care for respiratory tract infections and manage concerns. Tailoring is achieved by linking responses to key questions about the website user’s situation (e.g. symptoms, concerns, preferences) to a library of messages, so that website users are automatically presented with a unique combination of messages tailored to their particular situation. Users are also able to select additional information and advice by clicking on links.

The Internet Doctor is theory-based, addressing all components of the common-sense model of self-regulation of illness (i.e. perceived symptoms, cause, timeline, physical and emotional consequences and possibility for control/cure), and using the principles of social cognitive theory to address expected outcomes of consultation and self-care, and building self-confidence for self-care (by ‘modelling’ successful self-care by other patients and in clinical trial evidence, and encouraging personal behavioural experiments). The web-site format also draws on theory and research concerning presentation of textual and internet-based health information.

Duration: 2009-2013
Funded by NHIR
PI: Professor Paul Little

Related research groups

Centre for Clinical and Community Applications of Health Psychology (CCCAHP)
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