Out Now: Empowering or misleading? Online health information provision challenges

What does the article examine?
Patient Empowerment has been hailed as an unproblematic aim in many public health settings around the world. While it is a desirable aim, not much attention has been paid to the underlying factors of patient empowerment, in particular the provision of accessible information so that patients are really empowered to make their own decisions.

Patient Empowerment is often seen as unproblematic. But it relies heavily on accessible information. Click To Tweet

Which concepts are discussed in the article?
The article focuses on the theoretical underpinnings of patient empowerment, including uses and gratifications theory and the impact on active health seeking and patient empowerment (or in fact, patient confusion).

Where is the data from and what methodology is being used?
The article examines readability of online patient information, related to exercise, diet, diabetes, asthma, heart disease and Alzheimer. A variety of different sources are analysed using a readability measure called SMOG.

What are the main outcomes?
A significant proportion of online health information is written at a level that is far beyond the average person, i.e. it is written for people who have a very high degree of literacy (i.e. are specialists in the area).

Much of health information online is written for experts - not 'average' patients Click To Tweet

What are the implications and why should you read it?
There are numerous problems associated with this: Many health providers rely on online information to empower patients – however, many patients are likely to end up confused when reading the information.
In an ideal scenario, people might seek additional information from health providers. However, as one can imagine, often people will rather turn to other (often unverified or not science based) information online or elsewhere (e.g friends). In extreme cases, this may, in the long term and particularly for patients suffering from chronic conditions like those examined in the article, lead to the patient experimenting with ineffective or un-researched treatments – or even harmful ones.

More about the topics discussed in this article can be found in Chapters 9 & 11 in the Marketing Ethics & Society book. Click here for details. 

Full Reference:
Stephan Dahl, Lynne Eagle (2016): “Empowering or misleading? Online health information provision challenges”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 34 Iss: 7, pp.1000 – 1020

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