Quality of Health Information on the Internet

Quality of Health Information on the Internet

Kleopatra Alamantariotou (City University London, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-002-8.ch031
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Recent statistics show that the World Wide Web has now grown to over 100 million sites: a phenomenal expansion in only 15 years (Mulligan 2007). It has been estimated that there are 100,000 sites offering health related information (Wilson 2002). As the amount of health information increases, the public find it increasingly difficult to decide what to accept and what to reject (Burgess 2007). Searching for information on the internet is both deceptively easy and the same time frustratingly difficult (Kiley 2002). The challenge for consumers is to find high quality, relevant information as quickly as possible. There has been ongoing debate about the quality of information aimed at patients and the general public and opinions differ on how it can be improved (Stepperd 1999). The purpose of this chapter is to provide a brief overview of the different perspectives on information quality and to review the main criteria for assessing the quality of health information on the internet. Pointers are provided to enable both clinicians and patients find high quality information sources. An understanding of these issues should help health professionals and patients to make effective use of the internet.
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Health information includes information for staying healthy, preventing and managing disease, and making other decisions related to health and health care. It includes information for making decisions about health products and health services. It may be in the form of data, text, audio, and/or video. (Dzenowagis 2001)

The Internet provides a powerful tool for patients seeking medical information. It offers consumers access to a wealth of health and medical information that can enable them to take responsibility for their own health (Linkous 1999). Information is the communication or reception of knowledge. Such communication occurs in great part through the recording of knowledge(Taylor 2004). Some commentators predict that in the near future the Internet will be an important vehicle for delivering information and medical care. Tom Ferguson coined the term “e Patients” to define those people who were empowered to find medical answers for themselves, rather than rely on any single individual’s opinion or interpretation. Virtual children’s Hospital based the Internet’s first medical Web site since 1993(Risk 2003).

The number of health related Web sites is rising with more 70,000 sites available to patients in 2000. A 2006 survey of 5,007 U.S. adults found that 84% of consumers claimed to have researched a health-related topic online in the past 12 months. (Fox 2006). Another survey reported that eighty percent of American Internet users (some 113 million adults) have searched for information on at least one of seventeen health topics. (Fox 2006). 75% of all adults on line (47% of all adults) use the Internet to look for health information. This amounts to 98 million adults nationwide. (David 2003). On average those who look for health information online do so on average 3.3 times every month(Fox 2006).

Faced with this explosion of online information the main challenge facing today’s information consumer is how to find high quality information that meets their personal needs, within an acceptable time frame. But whilst everyone agrees that information quality is an important consideration, the concept of quality is problematic since in medicine there are often gray areas where the evidence-base is poor, making it difficult to determine a gold standard (Lewis 2005) Quality is an inherently subjective assessment, which depends on the type of the information needed, the type of the information searched for, and the particular qualities of the consumer (Wilson 2002). Experts believe that formal methods are needed to describe and assess information quality. Naumann maintains that “quality is the main discriminator of data and data sources on the Web” (Naumann 2001).

The paradox of quality as Robert Pirsing notes is the fact that “even though quality cannot be defined, you know what quality is” (Pirsing 1974). Although the typical consumer may be able to produce and define what quality means to them, each individual’s perception of the quality of health information will vary depending upon their current circumstances and quality requirements (Burgess 2007).

A recurrent concern about online health information is that anyone is free to publish. Websites are set up by individuals, patient, charities, activist groups, commercial bodies either selling a product, as well as by health care professionals. The overwhelming majority of these resources are informal, quite often with no clinical input (Potts 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Consumer Health Informatics: Consumer health informatics is the branch of medical informatics that analyses consumers’ needs for information; studies and implements methods of making information accessible to consumers; and models and integrates consumers’ preferences into medical information systems. Consumer informatics stands at the crossroads of other disciplines, such as nursing informatics, public health, health promotion, health education, library science, and communication science, and is perhaps the most challenging and rapidly expanding field in medical informatics; it is paving the way for health care in the information age.

Internet: The Internet is a world wide, publicly accessible series of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using the standard Internet protocol (IP). It is a “network of networks” that consists of millions of smaller domestic, academic, business, and government networks, which together carry various information and services, such as electronic mail, online chat, file transfer, and the interlinked Web pages and other resources of the World Wide Web (WWW).

Health Information: Health information is required for a wide variety of purposes, including building knowledge and understanding of health conditions; helping people to decide when they need to seek specialist help; supporting choices in relation to treatment, management or social care options; identifying, choosing and accessing appropriate healthcare providers; and educating patients and the public about public health risks and about primary and secondary prevention.

Quality: Quality is an inherently subjective assessment, which depends on the type of the information needed, the type of the information searched for, and the particular qualities of the consumer. Experts believe that formal methods are needed to describe and assess information quality.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Athina A. Lazakidou
Athina A. Lazakidou
Chapter 1
Sanjay P. Sood, Sandhya Keeroo, Victor W.A. Mbarika, Nupur Prakash, Ankur Seth
It is claimed that seeds of ‘medical informatics’ were sown in 1960s.From this time until the 1990s experts have described the discipline as... Sample PDF
Medical Informatics: Thirty Six Peer-Reviewed Shades
Chapter 2
D. John Doyle
E-health technology has started to become commonplace in the clinical world, with practitioners setting up their own Web sites to disseminate... Sample PDF
Medical Privacy and the Internet
Chapter 3
Ana Ferreira, Ricardo Cruz-Correia, Luís Antunes, David Chadwick
This chapter reports the authors’ experiences regarding security of the electronic medical record (EMR). Although the EMR objectives are to support... Sample PDF
Security of Electronic Medical Records
Chapter 4
György Surján
This chapter outlines the history of medical classifications in a general cultural context. Classification is a general phenomenon in science and... Sample PDF
The Cultural History of Medical Classifications
Chapter 5
Spyros Kitsiou
A fundamental requirement for achieving continuity of care is commonly accepted to be the integration and interoperability of different clinical... Sample PDF
Overview and Analysis of Electronic Health Record Standards
Chapter 6
Graham D. Bodie, Mohan J. Dutta, Ambar Basu
This chapter overviews an integrative model of e-health use that connects social disparities at the population level with individual characteristics... Sample PDF
The Integrative Model of E-Health Use
Chapter 7
Firat Kart
In this chapter we describe a distributed e-healthcare system that uses service oriented architecture as a basis for designing, implementing... Sample PDF
A Distributed E-Healthcare System
Chapter 8
Davor Mucic
In this chapter the author gives the short review over wide range of telepsychiatry applications. Furthermore, describes completely new and... Sample PDF
Telepsychiatry Within European E-Health
Chapter 9
Azizah Omar
In this chapter the author discusses several marketing principles and issues related to pitfalls and successes of Telehealth application in the case... Sample PDF
Pitfalls and Successes of a Web-Based Wellness Program
Chapter 10
Isabel de la Torre Díez
This chapter describes a Web -based application to store and exchange Electronic Health Records (EHR) and medical images in Ophthalmology... Sample PDF
A Web-Based Application to Exchange Electronic Health Records and Medical Images in Ophthalmology
Chapter 11
Mario Ceresa
This chapter mainly focuses on biomedical knowledge representation and its use in biomedicine. It first illustrates the existent more relevant... Sample PDF
Clinical and Biomolecular Ontologies for E-Health
Chapter 12
Roger Tait, Gerald Schaefer
The registration of corresponding patient volumes is often a pre-requisite for medical imaging tasks. Accurate alignment, however, usually results... Sample PDF
Distributed Medical Volume Registration
Chapter 13
Bill Ag. Drougas
Internet today is one of the most useful tools for information, education and business or entertainment. It is one of the modern technology tools... Sample PDF
Electronic Commerce for Health Products Services-Problems- Quality and Future
Chapter 14
Christos Bountis
This chapter introduces and reviews the concept of distributed knowledge management within the Healthcare environment and between Healthcare and... Sample PDF
Distributed Knowledge Management in Healthcare
Chapter 15
Jelena Vucetic
This paper describes business and technological challenges and solutions for a successful emergency telemedicine venture called MediComm. Its... Sample PDF
An Analysis of a Successful Emergency Telemedicine Venture
Chapter 16
Tammara Massey, Foad Dabiri, Roozbeh Jafari, Hyduke Noshadi, Philip Brisk, Majid Sarrafzadeh
This chapter introduces reconfigurable design techniques for light-weight medical systems. The research presented in this chapter demonstrates how... Sample PDF
Reconfigurable Embedded Medical Systems
Chapter 17
Konstantinos Perakis
The evolutions in the field of telecommunications technologies, with the robustness and the fidelity these new systems provide, have significantly... Sample PDF
Third Generation (3G) Cellular Networks in Telemedicine: Technological Overview, Applications, and Limitations
Chapter 18
Anton V. Vladzymyrskyy
This chapter introduces usage of telemedicine consultations in daily clinical practice. Author has describe process of teleconsultation, sample... Sample PDF
Telemedicine Consultations in Daily Clinical Practice: Systems, Organisation, Efficiency
Chapter 19
Cheon-Pyo Lee, J. P. Shim
Ubiquitous healthcare has become possible with rapid advances in information and communication technologies. Ubiquitous healthcare will bring about... Sample PDF
Ubiquitous Healthcare: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in Hospitals
Chapter 20
Rafael Capilla, Alfonso del Río, Miguel Ángel Valero, José Antonio Sánchez
This chapter deals with the conceptualization, design and implementation of an m-health solution to support ubiquitous, integrated and continuous... Sample PDF
Agile Patient Care with Distributed M-Health Applications
Chapter 21
Žilbert Tafa
This chapter describes the very actual issues on mobile health (M-H) and home care (H-C) telecare systems, reviewing state of the art as well as... Sample PDF
Mobile Health Applications and New Home Care Telecare Systems: Critical Engineering Issues
Chapter 22
José Antonio Seoane Fernández, Juan Luis Pérez Ordóñez, Noha Veiguela Blanco
This chapter presents an architecture for the integration of various algorithms for digital image processing (DIP) into web-based information... Sample PDF
A New System for the Integration of Medical Imaging Processing Algorithms into a Web Environment
Chapter 23
Daniel Welfer
This chapter discusses the concept of open-source picture archiving and communication systems (i.e. PACS), which are low cost, and easy to... Sample PDF
PACS Based on Open-Source Software Components
Chapter 24
Carolin Kaiser
This chapter introduces a case based reasoning (CBR) system for customizing treatment processes. The CBR system enables the generating of inpatient... Sample PDF
Case Based Reasoning for Customizing Treatment Processes
Chapter 25
I. Apostolakis, A. Chryssanthou, I. Varlamis
A significant issue in health related applications is protecting a patient’s profile data from unauthorized access. In the case of telemedicine... Sample PDF
A Holistic Perspective of Security in Health Related Virtual Communities
Chapter 26
Stamatia Ilioudi
This chapter aims to present various virtual learning environments for medical purposes in the world. More than ever, medical students and... Sample PDF
Virtual Learning Environments in Health
Chapter 27
Jelena Vucetic
In the last decade, advances in medicine, telemedicine, computer technologies, information systems, Web applications, robotics and... Sample PDF
Multimedia Distance Learning Solutions for Surgery
Chapter 28
Maria Andréia F. Rodrigues
This chapter shows how recent computing technologies such as collaborative virtual environments, high speed networks and mobile devices can be used... Sample PDF
Collaborative Virtual Environments and Multimedia Communication Technologies in Healthcare
Chapter 29
Tiffany A. Koszalka, Bradley Olson
A major issue facing medical education training programs across the USA is the recent advent of universal mandatory duty hour limitations and the... Sample PDF
Transforming a Pediatrics Lecture Series to Online Instruction
Chapter 30
Anastasia N. Kastania, Stelios Zimeras
In this chapter the authors investigate telehealth quality and reliability assurance. Various models and standards can be applied to assess software... Sample PDF
Quality and Reliability Aspects in Telehealth Systems
Chapter 31
Kleopatra Alamantariotou
Recent statistics show that the World Wide Web has now grown to over 100 million sites: a phenomenal expansion in only 15 years (Mulligan 2007). It... Sample PDF
Quality of Health Information on the Internet
Chapter 32
Kashif Hussain
This chapter provides a practical approach to computerized system validation (CSV) for the pharmaceutical organizations for the users dealing with... Sample PDF
A Practical Approach to Computerized System Validation
Chapter 33
Bill Ag Drougas, Maria Sevdali
Ergophysiology as a division of the Physiology and helps us today to understand what happens in the human body and movement and how we are able to... Sample PDF
Organization and Evaluation of Experimental Measurements of Ergophysiological Data with the Method of SF12V2
Chapter 34
Daniele Apiletti
Current advances in sensing devices and wireless technologies are providing a high opportunity for improving care quality and reducing the medical... Sample PDF
Ubiquitous Risk Analysis of Physiological Data
Chapter 35
Manfred Doepp
In our energy diagnostic department we noticed more and more cases with irrational stimulus-reaction- patterns and with a chaotic regulation state... Sample PDF
Chaotization of Human Systems by Technical Electromagnetic Fields
Chapter 36
Mary Schmeida, Ramona McNeal
This chapter is an analysis of demographic variables influencing policy outcomes with online health information searches in the general U.S. public.... Sample PDF
Demographic Differences in Telehealth Policy Outcomes
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