Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Prescriptions For Health Advice Online

07.03.2007
When searching for health advice online, consumers often reject websites with high quality medical information in favour of those with a human touch, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Faced with a minefield of information of variable quality, health consumers subject websites to an initial weeding-out process that will eliminate most NHS and drug company websites from the search within a matter of seconds.

The study, carried out by Professor Pamela Briggs at Northumbria University, together with colleagues at both Northumbria and Sheffield Universities, explored how health consumers decide whether or not to trust the information and advice they find online.

The researchers observed the search strategies of people who wanted to find specific health information and advice (about hypertension, menopause and HRT, the MMR vaccine, or generally improving their health and fitness) and found that many websites were dismissed at quite amazing speeds.

“One thing that really put people off was advertising, so people clicked off drug company websites straight away”, explains Professor Briggs. “Generally, the medical information on drug company sites is very accurate but people question the authors’ motivation and agenda. The issue of impartiality is quite crucial in building trust.”

The NHS websites fared little better. Often these were rejected because the first page participants were directed to was a portal or had too much background or generic content. “People don’t have the patience to scroll through pages in order to find something useful. Ease of access is so important”, says Professor Briggs.

Even if a site makes a favourable first impression, it is unlikely to keep our attention if there are no personal stories that we can relate to. People are looking for advice from like-minded people and are drawn to sites such as the charity based DIPEx and ProjectAWARE where they can read about the experiences of other people who have the same problems and concerns.

Despite rejecting many of the more ‘reputable’ sites, participants in this study did manage to find information of reasonable quality. But Professor Briggs warns that our searching strategy has the potential to let us down:

The tendency to particularly trust sites that contain contributions from like-minded peers could have dangerous effects on some groups of consumers, such as those with anorexia, by reinforcing unhealthy behaviour patterns, she explains.

The researchers have developed a set of guidelines for designing engaging and trustworthy sites and have shown that trustworthy sites have more influence on consumer behaviour.

They found that moderate to heavy drinkers who viewed trustworthy websites describing the health risks involved with alcohol consumption reduced their alcohol intake more than those who viewed the same information on a site with untrustworthy features such as adverts or links to pharmaceutical companies.

But the most important advice for those trying to promote health information on-line is to use engaging stories about people with similar experiences. Professor Briggs concludes:

“The great strength of the internet is that you can find people who have had the same problem that you have and see how they have coped with it – to forget about that, or to act as if it’s not happening, is missing the point.”

Annika Howard | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esrc.ac.uk
http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Sibling differences: Later-borns choose less prestigious programs at university
14.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung

nachricht Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ
09.11.2017 | Vanderbilt University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>