Biomedical Informatics Insights

Current Challenge in Consumer Health Informatics: Bridging the Gap between Access to Information and Information Understanding

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Biomedical Informatics Insights 2009:2 1-10

Published on 03 Apr 2009

DOI: 10.4137/BII.S2223

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Laurence Alpay1, John Verhoef1,2, Bo Xie3, Dov Te’eni4 and J.H.M. Zwetsloot-Schonk1

1Clinical Informatics Group, Department of Medical Statistics and Bioinformatics, Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), Leiden, The Netherlands. 2Department of Physical Therapy, Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), Leiden, The Netherlands. 3College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, College Park, U.S.A. 4Faculty of Management Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.


The number of health-related websites has proliferated over the past few years. Health information consumers confront a myriad of health related resources on the internet that have varying levels of quality and are not always easy to comprehend. There is thus a need to help health information consumers to bridge the gap between access to information and information understanding—i.e. to help consumers understand health related web-based resources so that they can act upon it. At the same time health information consumers are becoming not only more involved in their own health care but also more information technology minded. One way to address this issue is to provide consumers with tailored information that is contextualized and personalized e.g. directly relevant and easily comprehensible to the person’s own health situation. This paper presents a current trend in Consumer Health Informatics which focuses on theory-based design and development of contextualized and personalized tools to allow the evolving consumer with varying backgrounds and interests to use online health information efficiently. The proposed approach uses a theoretical framework of communication in order to support the consumer’s capacity to understand health-related web-based resources.




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