Cancer Communication Research Center

I currently take a Health Informatics course and I've been noticing some interesting trends in health information seeking behaviors within non-traditional contexts of new media and technology; particularly, social media and mobile phone use.

Social media is such a hot topic right now and the healthcare industry is still findings its place to fit in. Social media has shaped the way patients, physicians, care providers, and other medical professionals engage with health information and resources. The simple absorption of information is replaced by engagement with information. We can see from the literature that information-seeking behavior trends head towards personalization and tailored information (e.g., PatientsLikeMe, DiabetesMine, i[2]y), where everyday individuals are empowered with the tools to research, generate and share their own content. Sarasohn-Kahn (2008) describes this as Health 2.0, social software to promote collaboration between patients and other health stakeholders to create and consume information related to health. As Ginossar (2008) found, patients are not limited to seeking personal information, but they also offer information to others and demonstrate "information reply" helping behaviors more often than family members. Hawn (2009) also confirms the idea of a participatory health care system with Hello Health utilizing technology to benefit both the patient and the physician.

I wonder how much the attainment of personalized and tailored information affects information-seeking expectations as a whole in our everyday lives. A search for cancer information, for example, can yield "relevant" results within Google. However, this idea of "relevant" disease information really means "relevant information to me." I also think that this means new things for information competency. That is, finding information is no longer an issue; rather, sorting through information and determining personal relevance requires much higher-level skill and competency. Sorting through data means having at least some pre-existing knowledge or idea of what is relevant or not relevant to a health condition.

Additionally, mobile technology certainly perpetuates a phenomenon of ubiquitous computing. Personalization and tailored patterns also include preferred modes of delivery and media. Consumers desire information at their fingertips and mobile phones are especially powerful means of obtaining such information.

Undoubtedly, technology has influenced time expectations. "Waiting" to fill prescriptions, to book an appointment, or to communicate with one's physician are considered inconvenient and poor service. However, what sacrifices are individuals making by obtaining information and resources in the "now"? Is efficiency and convenience taking place of quality and efficacy? Hawn (2009) describes social media as "changing the locus of control to the patient," (p. 368) but are patients adequately informed or qualified to take the control? What things need to be done for them to be informed or qualified to take control?

Ginossar, T. (2008). Online participation: a content analysis of differences in utilization of two online cancer communities by men and women, patients and family members. Health Communication, 23(1), 1-12.

Hawn, C. (2009). Take two aspirin and tweet me in the morning: How Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are reshaping health care. Health Affairs, 28(2), 361-368.

Sarasohn-Kahn, J. (April 2008). The Wisdom of Patients: Health Care Meets Online Social Media. Oakland, CA: California Health Care Foundation.

Rannie Teodoro
2011 CCRC Doctoral Fellow
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Written by CCRC at 12:57




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