Can We Trust the Health Information We Find Online?: Identification of Influential Nodes

Can We Trust the Health Information We Find Online?: Identification of Influential Nodes

Leila Weitzel, Paulo Quaresma, Jose Palazzo Moreira de Oliveira, Danilo Artigas
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2814-2.ch017
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The Internet is becoming increasingly an important source of information for people who are seeking healthcare information. Users do so without professional guidance and may lack sufficient knowledge and training to evaluate the validity and quality of health web content. This is particularly problematic in the era of Web 2.0. Hence, the main goal of this research is to propose an approach to infer user reputation based on social interactions. Reputation is a social evaluation towards a person or a group of people. The results show that our rank methodology and the network topology succeeded in achieving user reputation. The results also show that centrality measures associated with the weighted ties approach suitably controls suitably the ranking of nodes.
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1. Introduction

The Internet has revolutionized communications, to the extent that it is now our preferred medium of everyday communication. It consolidated itself as a very powerful platform that has changed forever the way we do business. As such, it has become the Universal source of information for millions of people, on the go, at home, at school, and at work (“Internet usage and World population statistics,” 2016). Internet is also becoming increasingly important source of information for people who are seeking healthcare information (de Boer, Versteegen, & van Wijhe, 2007).

Many, if not most, users proactively seek information on their own to obtain answers instead of waiting for their next appointment with the doctor. Since, users do so without professional guidance, they may lack sufficient knowledge and training to evaluate the validity and quality of health web content (Eysenbach, 2002). Indeed, people increasingly go online to share their own health and illness experiences and to access information that others have posted. Internet is used as a serious and often the first source of information about health.

Looking on the bright side, the acquired information is intended to elicit discussion and communication between patient and the primary care physician. Looking at the negative side, incorrect information could be life-threatening (Anderson, 2004). Given that, the internet sites contain information of different quality levels, thus it makes it difficult for users to determine the quality of the information and the reputation of its providers (Agichtein, Castillo, Donato, Gionis, & Mishne, 2008).

Considering that not every article shared on Web is true, the concept of trust becomes imperative. How can we really trust the health information that we find online? We have to ask themselves, for example, is there any evidence that the author has some authority in health domain? What are the author’s qualifications, credentials and connections to the subject? Are there clues that the authors are biased? How shall we know what our sources are worth? How shall we be able to separate the bad sources from the good ones?

According to Bhattacharya et al (2014) Federal Government Agencies are increasingly interested in using social media to distribute information at the national, state and local levels. While it is a good news, this is not enough on its own to solve all the problems, it is very easy for outsiders to spread misinformation. For instance, anti-vaccination posts may sway parents into refusing to vaccinate their children, which can increase disease risk.

Despite all information acquired, using searching tools offers an unprecedented opportunity for applications to monitor and improve the quality of life of people. However, less than half of the medical information available online has been reviewed by medical experts and only 20% of Internet users verify the information by visiting authoritative websites such as CDC and FDA (Chomphoosang, 2012).

Many concerns have arisen about the quality in health domain, and the possibility that poor information has detrimental effects on health (Stvilia, Mon, & Yi, 2009; L. Weitzel, Quaresma, & de Oliveira, 2012). Indeed, health information is critical to health-related decisions, mostly because, health information acquired from Internet have the potential to both improve health and do harm. This is particularly problematic in era of Web 2.0. The Web 2.0 is a second generation of World Wide Web. It is the ultimate manifestation of User-Generated Content (UGC), and as such, holds more potential for growth than any other form of content on the Web today.

The explosion of UGC in health care is, in part, the result of broader internet trends: more and more people have broadband access and the tools for creating content are getting easier to use (Hughes, Joshi, Lemonde, & Wareham, 2009; Stvilia et al., 2009). Popular UGC systems domains include blogs and web forums, social bookmarking sites, photo and video sharing communities, as well as social networking platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. Given the widespread use of Twitter, people are increasingly using it to share their experiences with illness and treatments as well as other health concerns.

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