March 23, 2007

Why this comic hits too close to home…

Posted in Consumer Health, Library promotion, Rants at 10:18 am by Alexia

Heart of the City - March 23, 2007

Last October the Pew Internet & American Life Project published a report regarding behaviors of Internet users searching for health information (emphasis mine):

Eighty percent of American internet users, or some 113 million adults, have searched for information on at least one of seventeen health topics. Most internet users start at a general search engine when researching health and medical advice online. Just 15% of health seekers say they “always” check the source and date of the health information they find online, while another 10% say they do so “most of the time.” Fully three-quarters of health seekers say they check the source and date “only sometimes,” “hardly ever,” or “never,” which translates to about 85 million Americans gathering health advice online without consistently examining the quality indicators of the information they find. Most health seekers are pleased about what they find online, but some are frustrated or confused.

I read the above posted comic this morning, as I was updating the public Consumer Health Resource page at my hospital.  I have no idea how much this page is access, if at all (partially due to an IT department that doesn’t really care why I care about statistics) and was hoping I wasn’t updating the page for naught.  After all, getting to the page itself is an exercise in patience.  It takes clicking on no fewer than four links to get to the page and that is only if you know that you have to choose my particular hospitals page from the health system’s main page.  We are the only library in the system with enough staff to maintain an external web page for consumer health information seekers.

Translation – 75% of health information seekers don’t care if the information is right as long as it “looks like they did the work”.  85 million people thinking Krypton is a planet.  85 million people who probably don’t even know there are brick and morter or virtual consumer health libraries and librarians who are happy and willing to guide them to authorative, accurate health information.  85 million people whose local hospitals purchase “health library” packages for their web pages without consulting the librarians on staff.

So, as I sit here contemplating ideas for goals for the next fiscal year and wondering if partnering with local public libraries to teach critical appraisal skills to health information seekers would be worthwhile I see this report and think no – 75% of Internet users don’t care and feel the information is useful.  Then I think ignorance is no excuse and there has to be a way to reach the public.  It’s difficult for me to sit back and do nothing but I’m not exactly sure what we can do.  Here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around me head:

  • Try to get a link to the consumer health resource page on the main system web site.
  • Brainstorm about ideas for getting marketing involved in promoting healthy Internet search skills.
  • Continue conteplating partnering with public libraries in the hospital’s community to teach healthy Internet search skills.

I would love to hear other ideas.

1 Comment »

  1. Francesca Frati said,

    Hi Alexia,

    It’s scary, isn’t it? Have you considered partnering with health professionals in your hospital? I have been working with our hospital’s family medicine clinic for the past year to develop an in-house information service and we are almost ready to open our doors. We’re basing our model on one that was implemented at the Monkfield Medical Practice at Great Cambourne, in Cambridgeshire (Check out the “information prescription” section of this article for a description of the service:
    My library has also been partnered for some time with the oncology dept. to provide information to patients and their families and is now expanding these services at point-of-care. So far this model has been met with a lot of enthusiasm and support.

    Great blog by the way!

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