The role of internet resources in health decision-making: a qualitative study

Lauren Georgia Bussey, Elizabeth Sillence

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Objective:Internet resources remain important for health information and advice but their specific role in decision-makingis understudied, often assumed and remains unclear. In this article, we examine the different ways in which internetresources play a role in health decision-making within the context of distributed decision-making.Methods:We conducted semi-structured interviews with 37 people in the United Kingdom who reported using the internetin relation to decision-making, and representing a range of long- and short-term health conditions. The interviews focusedon decision-making activities across different settings and in relation to different stakeholders to understand how internetresources play a role in these activities. We carried out a thematic analysis of the interviews.Results:We identified three main ways in which internet resources played a role in health decision-making. A supportiverole (as a decision crutch), a stimulating role (as a decision initiator), and an interactional role (impacting on the doctor–patient relationship). These three roles spanned different resources and illustrated how the decision-making process can beimpacted by the encounters people have with technology – specifically internet based health resources – in different waysand at different time points.Conclusions:Examining health decisions with respect to internet resources highlights the complex and distributed nature ofdecision-making alongside the complexity of online health information sourcing. We discuss the role of internet resourcesin relation to the increasing importance of online personal experiences and their relevance within shared decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalDigital Health
Early online date7 Nov 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Nov 2019


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