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The Journal of Medical Internet Research

Development of a Web-Based Intervention for Addressing Distress in Caregivers of Patients Receiving Stem Cell Transplants: Formative Evaluation With Qualitative Interviews and Focus Groups



Caregivers of cancer patients experience significant burden and distress including depression and anxiety. We previously demonstrated the efficacy of an eight session, in-person, one-on-one stress management intervention to reduce distress in caregivers of patients receiving allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplants (allo-HSCT).


The objective of this study was to adapt and enhance the in-person caregiver stress management intervention to a mobilized website (eg, tablet, smartphone, or computer-based) for self-delivery in order to enhance dissemination to caregiver populations most in need.


We used an established approach for development of a mhealth intervention, completing the first two research and evaluation steps: Step One: Formative Research (eg, expert and stakeholder review from patients, caregivers, and palliative care experts) and Step Two: Pretesting (eg, Focus Groups and Individual Interviews with caregivers of patients with autologous HSCT (auto-HSCT). Step one included feedback elicited for a mock-up version of Pep-Pal session one from caregiver, patients and clinician stakeholders from a multidisciplinary palliative care team (N=9 caregivers and patient stakeholders and N=20 palliative care experts). Step two included two focus groups (N=6 caregivers) and individual interviews (N=9 caregivers) regarding Pep-Pal’s look and feel, content, acceptability, and potential usability/feasibility. Focus groups and individual interviews were audio-recorded. In addition, individual interviews were transcribed, and applied thematic analysis was conducted in order to gain an in-depth understanding to inform the development and refinement of the mobilized caregiver stress management intervention, Pep-Pal (PsychoEducation and skills for Patient caregivers).


Overall, results were favorable. Pep-Pal was deemed acceptable for caregivers of patients receiving an auto-HSCT. The refined Pep-Pal program consisted of 9 sessions (Introduction to Stress, Stress and the Mind Body Connection, How Thoughts Can Lead to Stress, Coping with Stress, Strategies for Maintaining Energy and Stamina, Coping with Uncertainty, Managing Changing Relationships and Communicating Needs, Getting the Support You Need, and Improving Intimacy) delivered via video instruction through a mobilized website.


Feedback from stakeholder groups, focus groups, and individual interviews provided valuable feedback in key areas that was integrated into the development of Pep-Pal with the goal of enhancing dissemination, engagement, acceptability, and usability.

JMIR Res Protoc 2017;6(6):e120


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