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J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2005 Nov-Dec;12(6):648-56. Epub 2005 Jul 27.

Health@Home: the work of health information management in the household (HIMH): implications for consumer health informatics (CHI) innovations.

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  • 1School of Nursing, InterMedia, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.



Contemporary health care places enormous health information management demands on laypeople. Insights into their skills and habits complements current developments in consumer health innovations, including personal health records. Using a five-element human factors model of work, health information management in the household (HIMH) is characterized by the tasks completed by individuals within household organizations, using certain tools and technologies in a given physical environment.


We conducted a descriptive-exploratory study of the work of HIMH, involving 49 community-dwelling volunteers from a rural Midwestern community.


During in-person interviews, we collected data using semistructured questionnaires and photographs of artifacts used for HIMH.


The work of HIMH is largely the responsibility of a single individual, primarily engaged in the tasks of acquiring, managing, and organizing a diverse set of health information. Paper-based tools are most common, and residents develop strategies for storing information in the household environment aligned with anticipated use. Affiliative relationships, e.g., parent-child or spousal, within the household serve as the organization that gives rise to health information management practices. Synthesis of these findings led to identification of several storage strategies employed in HIMH. These strategies are labeled "just-in-time," "just-because," "just-in-case," and "just-at-hand," reflecting location of the artifacts of health information and anticipated urgency in the need to retrieve it.


Laypeople develop and employ robust, complex strategies for managing health information in the home. Capitalizing on these strategies will complement and extend current consumer health innovations to provide functional support to people who face increasing demands to manage personal health information.

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