Project Details - Ended
- Grant Number:R03 HS019745
- Funding Mechanism:
- AHRQ Funded Amount:$99,999
- Principal Investigator:
- Project Dates:9/30/2010 to 9/29/2012
- Health Care Theme:
Americans of all ages use the Internet to obtain medical information because it is convenient and allows them to inexpensively search at any time for sensitive information in a relatively anonymous fashion. Internet usage among older adults has significantly risen, as well as their use of online searching for health information. Because information on the Internet is largely unregulated, information obtained with these searches may be of poor quality, incorrect, misleading, or incomplete. It is thus important that individuals of all ages know how to identify quality health information online.
This project aimed to improve older adults’ knowledge of and confidence in identifying high-quality online health information by developing and evaluating Your Health Online: Guiding eSearches, an interactive, educational Web site. The Web site was designed for older adults who are current users of the Internet.
The specific aims of this project were to:
- Convene focus groups to identify older adults' preferences for online learning about health.
- Develop an interactive online educational program to teach older adults to improve their knowledge and skills in identifying high-quality health Web sites and enhance their ability to efficaciously communicate with their physicians.
- Pilot test the feasibility of the program.
- Evaluate the outcomes of the new program compared to an alternative.
Focus groups, in-person interviews, and pilot tests were conducted with 94 community-dwelling adults to determine their health needs and online preferences for learning. Most of the participants reported using the Internet to search for information on medical conditions and procedures. The information gained from participants was utilized to develop the Web site’s interactive content and format. A subsequent evaluation was conducted by randomizing the participants to use of the new site versus taking a non-interactive tutorial with similar objectives. Knowledge, self-efficacy, and Internet use was compared between the two groups.
Nearly all participants agreed that interactive education was important. Both groups learned a similar amount, and reported being as self-efficacious. Those using the Web site gave high ratings to its appearance, usability, and usefulness, reporting that the information they learned would likely improve their next Internet health search. The project team noted that such a tool was both feasible to create and acceptable in a community setting for older users.
Participants recommended increasing the number of exercises, links to sites, and online articles on the site. In the future the team would like to evaluate the program’s ability to improve the way older adults conduct their searches for health information, and whether those improvements lead to better health and quality of life.