Research Summaries

How is technology used in health care… And what are the ethical issues?


Principal Investigator: Catherine Backman, Research Scientist of Rehabilitation, PhD, OT(C), FCAOT. Professor, Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy, University of British Columbia


We held our first focus group in November 2012 and the study is funded for 18 months. We anticipate we will report some preliminary results by Summer 2013, and final results by the end of 2014.


Why do this research?

E-Health is the use of modern technologies such as the internet, electronic self-monitoring devices, and decision aids to access health services and information. E-Health is widely claimed to offer health benefits, for example, to help people in their self-care.

In 2010, 70% of Canadian Internet users searched for medical or health-related information. The use of electronic tools is also rising. Yet surprisingly little research has examined how people with chronic illness use e-health in their daily lives and how it affects patient-clinician relationships, as well as the ethical issues which emerge (e.g., the benefits and potential harms of e-health). Our previous work on the experiences of people with inflammatory arthritis (IA) suggests that e-health influenced how some people accessed health services and were involved in decisions about their health and treatments. This project focuses on people with IA and at least one other chronic condition. We investigate how people use different types of e-health and what it means for their health and accessing health services.


What will be done?

We will conduct 4-5 focus groups (small group discussions) with health care consumers and Health Care Professionals (HCPs) to explore issues in e-health from both of these perspectives. Then, we will interview approximately 12 consumers and 12 HCPs to gain a more detailed understanding of the impact of e-health on issues such as the patient-HCP relationship.


Who is funding the research?

This project received an 18-month catalyst grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).


Who is on the research team?


Anne Townsend, PhD, Research Associate, Department of Occupational Science and Therapy, ARC

Paul Adam, Rheumatology Liaison and Outreach Services Coordinator, Mary Pack Arthritis Centre


Research Staff:

Jenny Leese, Research Assistant, ARC



Kamran Shojania, Clinical Trialist and former Director of Clinical Trials, MD, FRCPC 

Linda Li, BSc (PT), MSc, PhD; Associate Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia; Harold Robinson Chair / Arthritis Society Chair in Arthritic Diseases; Senior Research Scientist, Arthritis Research Canada

Michael McDonald, PhD; Professor Emeritus, Centre for Applied Ethics, University of British Columbia


Consumer Collaborators: 

Gordon Whitehead, Arthritis Patient Advisory Board, ARC

Sheila Kerr, Arthritis Patient Advisory Board, ARC




To learn more, please contact Catherine Backman at

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