Everyone has done it at one time or another. “It” being the act of looking up medical information online from a variety of online medical sources. In order to skip the process of visiting a doctor, patients turn to online medical websites in an attempt to educate themselves about such popular cosmetic surgery procedures as Brazilian butt lift (BBL), rhinoplasty and breast augmentation. Research shows that websites such as Cosmetic Town have the power to drive and guide patient education. Let’s take a look at how medical information websites play a big impact in patient education.
According to research about medical information websites, trustworthy patient-facing websites have the ability to create more patient education in the healthcare space. The results of this research study cited “usability, simplicity and author authority” as driving forces in creating patient trust in online medical information sources.
Thanks to the rise of the Internet, online medical information sources have become more popular than ever among the public. Patients visit medical consulting websites, or clinic-based websites, in order to better educate themselves about a variety of health conditions as well as make a self-diagnosis based on the information they find on the websites.
Pew Research found that one out of three patients make it a point to go online to find health information before they make a visit to their actual doctor. This statistic shows the importance of these medical websites in the overall patient experience.
According to the Pew Research team, “The Internet is an important source of health information and advice, and the information obtained may have a significant effect on health care decisions and outcomes and reduce anxiety and depression while increasing feelings of self-efficacy and empowerment.”
Because of the ability of online medical info sources to influence the health and decision making process of patients all over the world, healthcare professionals should make sure they understand the way the information is presented on the websites as well as the way patients process and make judgments about the information they find online. Besides making sure that any information shared online on medical info websites is accurate, doctors can also help patients browse these websites and utilize the many online resources available to them.
The research team also shared the fact that those seeking information about healthcare “encounter a plethora of Web-based and other sources of health information from a variety of organizations and individuals, and of varying quality, accuracy, and reliability.” In addition, the research team said that this “presents individuals with significant challenges in evaluating and selecting the sources to use, and more specifically, in assessing the credibility and trustworthiness of those sources.”
The research team conducted a literature review in order to gather additional information about web-based health information sources along with the characteristics that cause patients to view these online medical resources as being trustworthy.
Following a review of nearly 4000 articles on the topic, the research team determined that the following factors play a big part in making a website appear trustworthy to patients:
On the other hand, the research results found that advertising that was viewed as “obvious advertising” on the website was not considered to be a desirable website feature and also failed to create a credible impression on website visitors.
It should be noted that the lack of research on the negative characteristics of websites created a large gap in the overall knowledge of the research team. The information about the positive characteristics can help a design team create an authoritative website design while the lack of information about the negative characteristics of websites can often be detrimental to the website design of medical information websites.
The research team plans to use the information they have gathered to develop further topics regarding the perception patients have about the credibility of medical websites. The research team has suggested looking into the relationship between patient variables and website credibility as well as an investigation into specific patient demographics and a better measure of patient trust.