Patterns of Access and Use of Online Health Information among Internet Users: A Case Study
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Srinivas Melkote (Advisor)
Neil Englehart (Committee Member)
J. Oliver Boyd-Barrett (Committee Member)
Ewart Skinner (Committee Member)
Gi Woong Yun (Committee Member)
Internet and Information Technology have contributed immensely to an ever-changing information structure, especially in healthcare. Medical practitioners, healthcare professionals and health communication researchers alike find themselves in an evolving discourse of aware and empowered health consumers instead of patients. Increasingly, health is being looked upon as an individual responsibility, and health information is playing an important role for responsible health seekers. The basic purpose of this study was to explore factors that are related to or predictive of patterns of access and use of online health information among Internet users in Northeast Ohio. In addition, the study examined the relationship between behavior modifications and access to online health information, as well as sources of online health information and credibility of sources.
Of the 521 respondents of this study, 441 were health seekers. The results of the study showed that ease of information seeking, feeling empowered, self-health management and support from the online community were powerful motivators for health seekers. The study showed a positive relationship between health-related behavior modifications and access to online health information. Results also showed that health seekers are more likely to choose sources of online health information that can generally be considered reliable.
Additionally, the study showed a positive relationship between access to online health information and Internet self-efficacy of health seekers. The study showed that people are more likely to access online health information if they suffer from chronic disease or disability, if their loved ones suffer from chronic disease or disability and if they suffer from nagging health concerns. Access to online health information was explained by feelings of empowerment, support from the online community, cognitive involvement, and lower age. Use of online health information was explained by ease of information seeking, feelings of empowerment, support from the online community and the positive outcomes related to use of Internet for networking and learning.
For health communicators and health professionals, findings confirm the emergence of an empowered consumer, and hence imply that in content and in format, health information will have to cater to an increasingly involved and aware audience. Health information from online sources is a significant component of people's self-health plan and results show a positive relationship between health-related behavior modifications and online health information. Health professionals and health consumers should work together to integrate online health information into a larger overall health plan.
Kavathe, Rucha S., "Patterns of Access and Use of Online Health Information among Internet Users: A Case Study" (2009). Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations. 108.