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Patients' Online Information-Seeking Behavior

Chapter in book
Authors Ulrika Josefsson
Published in The Internet and Health Care - Theory, Research, and Practice
Pages 127-147
ISBN 0-8058-5814-8
Publisher Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers
Place of publication Mahwah
Publication year 2006
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Pages 127-147
Language en
Keywords Internet, patients, medical information, information seeking
Subject categories Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy, Media and Communications


Patients are increasingly searching the Internet for medical information to cope with illness and a changed life situation. However, few studies have addressed patients themselves and how they find their way through the vast amount of medical information online. Therefore, with the objective to give voice to the patients, this chapter identifies and analyzes patterns in their online information- seeking behavior. Using a qualitative analysis of 18 in-depth interviews with Swedish patients, the chapter captures important components of the complex picture of patients’ information seeking on the Internet. Informed by ideas from information science, the presentation of the empirical data is structured around features in Wilson’s (1997) general model of information behavior. Three themes (accessing online information, social support, and information accuracy and applicability) derived from the empirical data serve as the basis for a discussion on the consequences associated with the search behaviors observed in the studies. Balancing factors (coping strategy, resource requirements, and online information seeking assistance) complement the discussion in order to provide a nuanced picture of the outcomes of the participants online information seeking.

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