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BMJ. 2002 Mar 9;324(7337):573-7.

How do consumers search for and appraise health information on the world wide web? Qualitative study using focus groups, usability tests, and in-depth interviews.

Author information

  • 1Unit for Cybermedicine and eHealth, Department of Clinical Social Medicine, University of Heidelberg, Bergheimer Str 58, 69115 Heidelberg, Germany. ey@yi.com

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To describe techniques for retrieval and appraisal used by consumers when they search for health information on the internet.

DESIGN:

Qualitative study using focus groups, naturalistic observation of consumers searching the world wide web in a usability laboratory, and in-depth interviews.

PARTICIPANTS:

A total of 21 users of the internet participated in three focus group sessions. 17 participants were given a series of health questions and observed in a usability laboratory setting while retrieving health information from the web; this was followed by in-depth interviews.

SETTING:

Heidelberg, Germany.

RESULTS:

Although their search technique was often suboptimal, internet users successfully found health information to answer questions in an average of 5 minutes 42 seconds (median 4 minutes 18 seconds) per question. Participants in focus groups said that when assessing the credibility of a website they primarily looked for the source, a professional design, a scientific or official touch, language, and ease of use. However, in the observational study, no participants checked any "about us" sections of websites, disclaimers, or disclosure statements. In the post-search interviews, it emerged that very few participants had noticed and remembered which websites they had retrieved information from.

CONCLUSIONS:

Further observational studies are needed to design and evaluate educational and technological innovations for guiding consumers to high quality health information on the web.

PMID:
11884321
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC78994
Free PMC Article
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