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Essay Sample on Quality of Health Information on the Internet

2021-08-25 16:13:45
7 pages
1721 words
University/College: 
Vanderbilt University
Type of paper: 
Essay
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Millions of members of the public seek health information from various sources that include magazines, newspapers, and other publications. Before the era of the internet, consumers used to rely on hard copies of these publications. However, with the technological developments, they have a choice to access the information either in hard copies or from the internet. Surveys conducted in the past show that about 70% of the US citizens use the internet to search health information (Yom-Tov, Cox, and Lampos, 2015; Fiksdal et al., 2014). Although health experts have previously played a key role as major sources of vital health information, especially in the decision-making processes, the people have increasingly relied on the internet as the key source of information for their health information. The internet has provided a means through which consumers get increased availability or access of easy-to-find, understandable, and evidence-based sources of health information. While there are many publications with content associated with health information, not all of them are reliable. Health information meant for public consumption ought to meet certain minimum criteria to be considered reliable.

Many members of the public seek health information. However, research has shown that 90% of the consumers in a country such as the US have limited health literacy skills (Devine et al., 2016). The lack of sufficient literary skills suggests that many people struggle to understand complex information as well as services which are not only intended to help them prevent diseases but also access health services. When a consumer access a website in search of health information, they seek that which will help them to make informed choices in their lives, and those of others. It is therefore important that the internet health content is delivered in a manner that helps the consumer to derive the most information in the best language they can understand. A website with health information must meet certain criteria for people to make informed health decisions. Basic criteria include interactivity, disclosure, and credibility. Additionally, three other essential criteria include design, content, and links (Dalhouse University, 2018).

Credibility in the context of health information involves a consideration of the various aspects of the information that include editorial review processes, currency, source, and relevancy. One of the most important criteria that are used to determine the credibility, as well as the quality of the health information, is the source. There are many ways of locating the source of information on a website. The website hosting the information must display the logo or name of the institution or organization associated with the information. In addition to providing the authors name in case, it is relevant; there should also be the credentials or qualifications of the author. Additionally, any financial or personal connections that may pose a source of bias should be indicated. Further, the information provider ought to disclose its motivation r sponsorship in case it was an advertisement (Medical Library Association, 2018). To help in checking whether the information is current, the date in which the initial information is based, as well as the date at which the information is posted on the web, should be displayed. Relevance is indicated by the extent to which the content of the site corresponding to the information it is offering. The appropriate review process has been followed if the site displays a seal of approval by a group, institution or individuals. The site can also indicate that the information being provided has been reviewed by relevant individuals, institutions or organizations.

The content of information of a website is evaluated on the basis of its accuracy and completeness. Additionally, it should carry a disclaimer. Accuracy includes aspects such as the identity of the data that form the basis of the conclusions made, clear presentation of the scientific or clinical evidence, and a description of the frame of study that can be easily understood by a layperson. According to the Medical Library Association (2018), the information should be not only clear but also in a manner that can be verified. The information presented on the website should be complete and balanced. Additionally, the website should carry a disclaimer stating the currency of the information, scope, purpose, authority, and limitations. Further, the website should have a disclaimer that the content displayed is not medical advice but just mere information.

Disclosure is another criteria of a good website (Grohol, Slimowicz, and Granda, 2014). Disclosure in the context of health information suggests that a website inform the people on whether there is any data collection about them during their visit to the site. Further, it should inform them about how the data will be used. Essentially, a website ought to state the purpose of the site in a clear way. If there is any information collected on the site, the users need to be informed about who has collected the information, the nature of the information collected, and how the information collected will be used.

Posting all the information that visitors to a website may need could be difficult due to space and without loss of focus. Providing in-text citations and reference pages may not help much especially for visitors who wish to collect sufficient information in a very short time. Links connect information found on the site with other information found on other sites. The link is a criterion for a website especially those providing health information since the customer will have an opportunity to learn beyond what is just presented on the page. In a website bearing health information, links ought to be included. The links are important when users wish to verify the content displayed on the site (Medical Library Association, 2018). Additionally, the links direct the visitors to other sources with reliable information. The quality of the site can be highly improved by creating links with additional and reliable information.

Websites are unique from each other due to not just the content they display but also the manner in which they are designed. The design is a very important factor in a website. Although the design does not affect the quality of the website, it has a significant impact on the delivery as well as the manner in which the information is used. Consequently, a well-designed website should be organized logically so that visitors can find it easy to navigate. The site should also focus on the purpose but also on the target audience. Key among the factors that should be considered in the design is the literacy of the users. Research conducted by Alsaiari et al. (2016) suggest that many websites containing kidney health information are very difficult to comprehend without a high school education. Since most of the users of the health information sites have been found to be laypersons, the design should consider them. Further, the site should be designed in such a manner that it can be searched.

While some people wish to get satisfied with the information they obtain from a website, some might need to request for more information or seek an experts vision regarding various issues. Additionally, some visitors may wish to leave some comments, additional information, or share their life experiences. Consequently, the interactivity of a site is very important to some visitors. While it does not affect the quality of a site, interactivity is important since it provides the contact information as well as the feedback options. A good website should be designed in such a manner that it offers a feedback mechanism where the users offer corrections and comments or even raise questions. Additionally, a good website should be accountable to its users.

In this case, the magazine reviewed is TIME (2018). It presents a narrative about growing up with ADHD. The site meets the criteria for credibility since the information presented is current, and relevant. Additionally, the sources of information presented are credible since the names of the authors, as well as their qualifications, are displayed. The health information on the site meet the criteria for content since it is not only accurate but also appear to be complete. Additionally, the site has a disclaimer since it displayed the sources of information, as well as the caution that the site is for information only and that ADHD is not curable. The site does not indicate whether there is data collection associated with the visitors to the website. Probably, the site is not meant for gathering data. Visitors to the site who feel they need additional information about ADHD can find additional information through the many links provided on the site. Therefore, this site meets the criteria for links. The website is well-designed since the page is organized logically to allow for easy navigation among the visitors. The topic of the site is also focused on not just the purpose but also on the targeted audience. In addition to its search capability, the information presented reflect the literacy level of the visitors. The website also gives users an option to add comments, make corrections, and get feedback through multiple channels such as direct messages, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and so forth. Overall, the website meets all the criteria.

 

References

Alsaiari, A., Joury, A., Aljuaid, M., Wazzan, M., & Pines, J. M. (2017). The content and quality of health information on the internet for patients and families with adult kidney cancer. Journal of Cancer Education, 32(4), 878-884.

Dalhouse University. (2018). Evaluation of health information on the web. Retrieved from http://dal.ca.libguides.com/c.php?g=257155

Devine, T., Broderick, J., Harris, L. M., Wu, H., & Hilfiker, S. W. (2016). Making quality health websites a national public health priority: toward quality standards. Journal of medical Internet research, 18(8), E211.

Fiksdal, A. S., Kumbamu, A., Jadhav, A. S., Cocos, C., Nelsen, L. A., Pathak, J., & McCormick, J. B. (2014). Evaluating the process of online health information searching: a qualitative approach to exploring consumer perspectives. Journal of medical Internet research, 16(10). E224.

Grohol, J. M., Slimowicz, J., & Granda, R. (2014). The quality of mental health information commonly searched for on the Internet. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 17(4), 216-221.

Medica Library Association. (2018). Find good health information: for health consumers and patients. Retrieved from http://www.mlanet.org/page/find-good-health-information

TIME. (2018). Growing up with ADHD. http://time.com/growing-up-with-adhd/

Yom-Tov, E., Cox, I. J., & Lampos, V. (2015, February). Learning about health and medicine from Internet data. In Proceedings of the Eighth ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (pp. 417-418). ACM.

 

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