Consumers' Online Health Information-Seeking Behaviors: Potential Implications for Pharmacy Practice
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The Internet harbors unparalleled volumes of information, including health information. Using the Internet for health-related purposes is among the most popular online activities. Given the increasing prevalence of chronic health conditions and the need for consumers to play a greater role in their own healthcare, there is potential for health professionals to assist consumers in fulfilling such roles. This study explores the online health information-seeking behaviors of consumers with chronic health conditions, and identifies potential implications for pharmacy practice. Methods: Ethical approval was obtained. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken during 23rd September to 12th November 2013. Participants were recruited via various channels, including nine metropolitan community pharmacies within Western Australia, a radio broadcasting channel, the Curtin University website, and social media channels. Data were audio-recorded, transcribed, and thematically analysed. Results: 17 participants (9 females and 8 males) completed the semi-structured interviews, and saturation of themes was reached. Common themes identified include: the use of the Internet due to its accessibility, to find information on medication side-effects, the desire of participants to have websites endorsed by either authoritative organisations or by registered health professionals, using the Internet for health information due to a perception that medical practitioners have limited time to provide health education, for clarification on consultations, and a perception that medical practitioners treat the problem at-hand without addressing health holistically. Conclusions: Results suggest that participants seek the Internet for health information due to its accessibility and when their needs are inadequately satisfied by their health professionals. However, participants trust websites endorsed by health professionals. Given the greater accessibility of community pharmacists compared to many medical practitioners, there is potential for pharmacists to engage with consumers to provide further health information in areas of need, and/or to provide recommendations of credible websites to consumers during pharmacist-consumer interactions.
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