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Helping patients mobilize their personal strengths within a rheumatology setting: A qualitative study with healthcare providers

Olöf Birna Kristjansdottir, Heidi A. Zangi, Cornelia Ruland, Jelena Mirkovic, Kurt C. Stange, Una Stenberg


Introduction: Healthcare providers play an essential but under-realized role in helping people with chronic illness become aware of and use their own personal strengths for self-management support. A digital application that encourages a focus on patients’ strengths could have a positive effect.

Objective: To explore how rheumatology healthcare providers report: (1) helping patients mobilize their strengths and (2) the potential of a digital application to support this process. 

Methods: Focus groups and individual interviews were conducted with healthcare providers (n=16) with different professional backgrounds, recruited from a rheumatology specialist department providing in- and outpatient service. They were asked about their experience with helping patients use their strengths and for their feedback on an initial paper prototype of a digital application to encourage reflection and dialog on strengths. Thematic analysis was conducted.

Results: Healthcare providers generally perceive helping patients to acknowledge and use their strengths as important and embedded in their work. Analyses identified 4 categories describing the subtle work of helping patients engage their strengths: Active Listening, The Importance of Contextualization, Promoting Learning and Not Without Challenges. Feedback on a potential digital application was summarized.

Conclusion: The task of mobilizing strengths is seen by healthcare providers as part of their self-management support for patients with chronic illness. Based on their feedback on an initial prototype, a digital pre-consultation application might have the potential to support the process of helping patients build on their personal strengths.


Behaviour change, chronic illness, communication skills, digital applications, E-health development, experiences, goal setting, health personnel, healthcare providers, patient activation, person-centered healthcare, positive psychology, qualitative study,

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