A critical analysis of the literature on the Internet and consumer health information.
Powell JA., Lowe P., Griffiths FE., Thorogood M.
A critical review of the published literature investigating the Internet and consumer health information was undertaken in order to inform further research and policy. A qualitative, narrative method was used, consisting of a three-stage process of identification and collation, thematic coding, and critical analysis. This analysis identified five main themes in the research in this area: (1) the quality of online health information for consumers; (2) consumer use of the Internet for health information; (3) the effect of e-health on the practitioner-patient relationship; (4) virtual communities and online social support and (5) the electronic delivery of information-based interventions. Analysis of these themes revealed more about the concerns of health professionals than about the effect of the Internet on users. Much of the existing work has concentrated on quantifying characteristics of the Internet: for example, measuring the quality of online information, or describing the numbers of users in different health-care settings. There is a lack of qualitative research that explores how citizens are actually using the Internet for health care.