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, iy), 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
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
2011 CCRC Doctoral Fellow
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey