A review of features in internet consumer health decision-support tools

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17 Scopus citations


Background: Over the past decade, health care consumers have begun to benefit from new Web-based communications tools to guide decision making on treatments and tests. Using today's online tools, consumers who have Internet connections can: watch and listen to videos of physicians; watch and hear the stories of other consumers who have faced the same decisions; join an online social support network; receive estimates of their own chances of experiencing various outcomes; and do it all at home. Objective: To review currently-available Internet consumer health decision-support tools. Methods: Five Web sites offering consumer health decision-support tools are analyzed for their use of 4 key Web-enabled features: the presentation of outcomes probability data tailored to the individual user; the use of videotaped patient interviews in the final product to convey the experiences of people who have faced similar diagnoses in the past; the ability to interact with others in a social support network; and the accessibility of the tool to any health care consumers with an Internet connection. Results: None of the 5 Web sites delivers all 4 target features to all Web users. The reasons for these variations in the use of key Web functionality-features that make the Web distinctive-are not immediately clear. Conclusions: Consumers trying to make health care decisions may benefit from current Web-based decision-support tools. But, variations in Web developers' use of 4 key Web-enabled features leaves the online decision-support experience less than what it could be. Key research questions are identified that could help in the development of new hybrid patient decision-support tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-64
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2002


  • Decision making
  • Informatics
  • Internet
  • Multimedia
  • Prognosis
  • Social support
  • Treatment outcome


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