Cyber Behaviors in Seeking Health Information

Cyber Behaviors in Seeking Health Information

Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch325
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This paper discusses health information seeking (HIS) behavior in general, and then followed with collaborative HIS behavior in terms of the current status, the representative researchers and their work, challenges and future directions. All aspects of collaborative HIS constitute a wide field and thus, this paper focuses on the HIS social dimension and explores how collaborative HIS could contribute to promoting people's positive health behavior. Afterwards, collaborative information seeking systems are introduced, and future directions and conclusion are discussed.
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Warner and Procaccino (2004) defined health information seeking (HIS) as “the process of seeking information needed for personal decision-making related to health and medical issues.” HIS constitutes an important part of people’s information seeking behavior. In analyzing a Pew Research Center survey, Kennedy and Funk (2015) reported that about 66% online adults show interests on health and medicine topics, while 37% of online adults claim that “health and medicine” is one of the topics they deem as most interesting. Kennedy and Funk (2015) also noted that research on measuring public understanding about science and technology usually relates science and technology to the health and medical domain.

Consider the following scenario in your ordinary daily life (Yuan & White, 2012). Shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1.



In this scenario, people need to 1. Deal with a need of seeking information on headache and brain tumor, which could be a complex task for people with limited medical knowledge. 2. Overcome potential stress caused by knowing about others’ stressful events (e.g. deaths). 3. Share information with others who have similar concerns. Each of these three items is explained in further detail below.

  • 1.

    In completing complex tasks, people need guidance to go through the required steps towards completing the tasks, instead of a simple ranked list (Joachims et al., 1997). The information foraging theory developed by Pirolli and Card (1999) provided a theoretical foundation for this situation. This theory indicated that information seekers rely on cues left by previous visitors to identify patches of information, and then use them to solve their information problems. Building on the previous findings and the information foraging theory, in a HIS context, Yuan and White (2012) studied the impact of domain knowledge on information seeking behavior and found that expert-generated sequences of web pages are more useful than those of novice users.

  • 2.

    According to Folkman (1984), stress is “a relationship between the person and the environment that is appraised by the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and as endangering his or her well-being.” Studying information behavior models, Wilson (1997) reported that “stress arises in many situations that are considerably less than life-threatening but may endanger one's “well-being” or, perhaps, self-image, in other ways.” Wilson also argued that stress arose in HIS because “the emotional impact of life-threatening diseases or operations is very obvious.” Current research indicates that people’s awareness and stress level are increased when they are provided information about stressful events associated with other people’s lives (Hampton et al., 2015; Smith and Rose, 2011).

  • 3.

    How to design a system that can help users learn, understand and use during the information seeking process has been challenging. Twidale et al. (1997) suggested that “a truly user-centred system must acknowledge and support collaborative interactions between all users.” They proved that collaboration can actually help improve users’ learning and understanding of the systems. A well designed system should be able to help people get needed information and share it with those who have the same information need. People who are seeking the same or related information may probably also benefit from collaboration by division of labor.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Health information Systems Research (HISR): The multidisciplinary research relevant to the design, construction and use of information systems and technologies in a healthcare setting.

Health Information Seeking (HIS) Behavior: Human information behavior related to seeking for health information to satisfy human information needs.

Cost of Caring: People get stressful when they know of stressful events occurred in other people’s lives.

Collaborative Information Seeking System: An information system supporting collaboration and sharing among users during their information seeking processes.

Collaborative Health Information Seeking: People seek for health information collaboratively.

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