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J Med Internet Res. 2002 Apr-Nov;4(2):E11.

A review of features in Internet consumer health decision-support tools.

Author information

  • 1School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Minneapolis, MN, 55455, USA. schwitz@umn.edu

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Over the past decade, health care consumers have begun to benefit from new Web-based communications tools to guide decision making on treatments and tests. Using today's online tools, consumers who have Internet connections can: watch and listen to videos of physicians; watch and hear the stories of other consumers who have faced the same decisions; join an online social support network; receive estimates of their own chances of experiencing various outcomes; and do it all at home.

OBJECTIVE:

To review currently-available Internet consumer health decision-support tools.

METHODS:

Five Web sites offering consumer health decision-support tools are analyzed for their use of 4 key Web-enabled features: the presentation of outcomes probability data tailored to the individual user; the use of videotaped patient interviews in the final product to convey the experiences of people who have faced similar diagnoses in the past; the ability to interact with others in a social support network; and the accessibility of the tool to any health care consumers with an Internet connection.

RESULTS:

None of the 5 Web sites delivers all 4 target features to all Web users. The reasons for these variations in the use of key Web functionality--features that make the Web distinctive--are not immediately clear.

CONCLUSIONS:

Consumers trying to make health care decisions may benefit from current Web-based decision-support tools. But, variations in Web developers' use of 4 key Web-enabled features leaves the online decision-support experience less than what it could be. Key research questions are identified that could help in the development of new hybrid patient decision-support tools.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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