This extensive feasibility study investigated how health care professionals look for medical information on publicly available Web sites and how they browse on-line medical resources including multi-media files and education materials. The study was conducted to provide information for future Web application designs that will be developed by the National Library of Medicine. The study sought answers to a variety of questions regarding human-computer interactions, including: what usability criteria should be used in selecting search engines; how do users cope with increasing amounts of information, especially medical and health information, and what is the desired format and level of language for medical and health information? The study included a review of the literature, user interviews, and focus groups.
The study found that skills necessary to successfully negotiate government medical and health information Web sites included: familiarity with medical terminology, English language literacy, and the ability to formulate searches. Researchers were also reminded of the fact that health care workers of all kinds are time-starved professionals who generally don't spend long periods on-line and need to be alerted to important information they may need rather than having to initiate their own searches. In the medical area, useful information is perishable and the date that information is published is of great interest to information "finders" and needs to be highlighted. The authority/source of information is likewise of significant interest in this subject area. Effective media presentations and interesting graphic images can also contribute to improved communication of information. The study also produced observations regarding future processes for evaluating how effective Web information was. For instance, researchers observed that individual interviews together with participant's hands-on activities yielded better data regarding interface functionality while focus group activities yielded better information regarding content. A concluding caution provided by the study was pointing out that all the participants in the study had access to modern information systems but that there are still relatively large numbers of National Library of Medicine information consumers who do not have access to such technology. These latter groups will need intermediaries to help them access good quality information.
Report Title: On-Line Search Behavior for Medical Information http://aspe.hhs.gov/pic/fullreports/06/8430.pdf
Agency Sponsor: NIH, National Institutes of Health
Federal Contact: Ma, Wei, 301-496-8436
Performer: Quotient Inc; Columbia, MD
PIC ID: 8430