Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Med Libr Assoc. 2008 Oct;96(4):310-23. doi: 10.3163/1536-5050.96.4.006.

Lay information mediary behavior uncovered: exploring how nonprofessionals seek health information for themselves and others online.

Author information

  • 1Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, Mail Code: BICC, 3181 Southwest Sam Jackson Park Road, Portland, OR 97239, USA.



This research studied motivations for, barriers to, and effects of online health information seeking and explored lay information mediary behavior (LIMB) characteristics in the consumer health information domain. Lay information mediaries (LIMs) seek information on behalf or because of others, without necessarily being asked to do so or engaging in follow up, and have represented more than 50% of health information seekers in prior studies.


A web-based survey was posted on NC Health Info (NCHI) with 211 respondents, self-identified per the information need that brought them to NCHI as 20% LIMs (n = 43), 58% direct users (n = 122), and 22% health or information providers (n = 46). Follow-up telephone interviews were performed with 10% (n = 21). Interview analysis focused on lay participants (n = 15 LIMs and direct users combined). Interviewees were reclassified post-survey as 12 LIMs and 3 direct users when studied information behavior extended beyond NCHI search. Interview data were analyzed using grounded theory approach.


Surveyed LIMs were 77% female (n = 33) and searched on behalf or because of family members (81%, n = 35) and people they felt "extremely close" to (77%, n = 33). LIMs reported various information seeking barriers "sometimes" to "often." LIMs searched mostly without prompting (51%, n = 22). Interview results triangulated survey findings regarding gender, tie strength, and prompting.


LIMB may be related to gender and relationship tie strength and appears more internally than externally motivated. Further LIMB research is warranted.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk