vizHOME: A Context-Based Health Information Needs Assessment Strategy (Wisconsin)

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Effective personal health information management (PHIM) facilitates self-care, ensures appropriate use of health services, and improves health outcomes. PHIM encompasses cognitive and behavioral tasks—including recording symptoms; communicating with clinicians; determining when and how to reorder medications; monitoring health status; and making sense of discharge summaries, health-related Web sites, and clinician-provided handouts—that people undertake to accomplish their health goals. PHIM tasks are often completed at home, and the home’s physical features (also referred to as household context), such as storage adequacy, lighting, privacy, and proximity of health information management tools can influence the person’s ability to complete the necessary tasks. Knowledge of the household context features that shape PHIM can lead to better-designed technologies for more effective health management.

The goal of this project is to determine how household context shapes PHIM among adults who self-identify as having diabetes. The multidisciplinary team of clinicians, engineers, and computer scientists will conduct a series of home assessments, laboratory studies, and a field survey to examine the visible, physical aspects of the home environment as well as the personal characteristics that influence PHIM. The home assessment will be conducted in 20 households of people with diabetes. The assessment will also include participant observation of three tasks common to people with diabetes: self-monitoring, medication management, and communication about health concerns, to understand how tasks are completed within the home context and the impact of personal characteristics.

Digital models of each household will be created using image surveying technologies and rendered in a virtual reality environment. The team will use an immersive 3D Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) and other 3D environments to visualize the digital models of households. The team will appraise the accuracy and realism of the virtual households and then conduct requirements assessments in them. This will enable the researchers to appraise the interplay between social structure, task, and physical environment, and generate an inventory of key features of the home context that affect PHIM.

The specific aims of the project are to:

  • Identify which features of the home context shape PHIM.
  • Determine the task process factors and personal characteristics that alter the influence of household context on PHIM.

The project aims to identify the contextual factors of the home that influence people’s awareness of and ability to complete information-dependent self-management tasks. With over 300 participants in the project, the team will create a repository of full digital models of households that can be used in subsequent design activities. This work represents an early exploration of how context shapes information needs, and will provide preliminary guidance to computer program designers about how PHIM technology can be integrated into homes most effectively. The long-term goal is to improve people’s self-management and health outcomes by accelerating the design and adoption of PHIM computer technologies that consider the home context explicitly.

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