"It gave me relief...it gave me confidence" - the online health information seeking experiences of adults with chronic health conditions.
Authors: Mayoh, J.
Conference: Bournemouth UniversityAbstract:
Background- The recent modernisation of the United Kingdom (UK) National Health Service (NHS) has included a number of sizeable reforms that have emphasised partnership relationships between patients and professionals, and the importance of individuals taking a more active role in their care. Many of these changes have been specifically geared towards patients with chronic health conditions, who are recognised as imposing the largest strain on health services worldwide. This modernisation has occurred in parallel with a huge increase in the number of people within the UK who are turning to the internet for health information in order to become more informed about their health and treatment regimes. Despite this increase in the prevalence of online health information (OHI) seeking, relatively little is known about how people seek OHI and the impact it has on their lives and relationships with others. Overall Study Aim- This study sought to understand the OHI seeking experience of individuals with chronic health conditions by using an innovative mixed-methods approach to collect a breadth and depth of relevant information on the topic. Design – One hundred participants were recruited from local support groups for various chronic health conditions. The participants in the first stage of the study completed one of two questionnaires, depending on whether or not they had sought OHI in the past. The design and focus of stage two of the study was guided by the findings from stage one, and subsequently focused on the experiences of older adults with chronic health conditions seeking OHI. A descriptive phenomenological approach was adopted in order to provide rich descriptions of patients’ experiences. Six participants were purposefully selected from a parallel sample to the stage one respondents. Findings- The results from stage one provided a breadth of information about the OHI seeking experience for people with chronic health conditions. Findings suggested that health professionals were still the most important source of health information for users and non-users of OHI; that patients had an awareness of the inconsistencies in terms of OHI quality; and identified the perceived ease with which useful and relevant OHI was located. A further key finding was that high age, low education levels and low internet usage not only acted as barriers to OHI seeking for participants, but also had a negative impact on participants’ perceptions of the positive outcomes of OHI seeking, such as confidence in decision-making or engaging in discussions with health professionals. Moreover, some non-users demonstrated that they felt they were “too old” to engage in OHI seeking. Stage two findings demonstrated 5 key themes: patients taking responsibility for their health; their expectations of OHI; explicit confidence in their own ability to discern OHI and concern for others to do the same; the selective nature of OHI sharing between patients, and patients and health professionals; and the reinforcement of social sharing networks where positive and useful OHI is shared freely. Conclusion- Although older adults within this sample were less likely to engage in, and perceive the positive outcomes of OHI seeking than their younger counterparts, some older adults were successfully engaging in the OHI seeking experience, and perceiving the constructive effects of this experience such as empowerment. Furthermore both stages of the research demonstrated the valuable role health professionals play in supporting patients seeking OHI. Implication- This study demonstrates a need for health professionals to actively support patients in seeking OHI. In doing so, this could reinforce OHI seeking behaviour, and assist patients in effectively searching for and appraising OHI.
Source: BURO EPrints