Sunday, 26 February 2012

Radio 4 HealthCheck: Web information

Again another fascinating Radio 4 program - HealthCheck on 1st February talked about work done by Ellen Henderson at Bath University on the availability of health information online. They looked at the quality, safety and accuracy of information accessed by people online. It highlighted the problems that forums can cause with providing information not medically approved. From experience, forums tend to be very helpful about very specific day-to-day questions, such as which compression stockings are best. Many forum members are active because their condition has such an adverse effect on their life - they need (quite rightly!) that outlet for their feelings and experiences. As a new patient, that can be quite detrimental. . . 
The Research by Ellen Henderson looked at the level of literacy needed for people to access accurate and reliable medical information on the web - they found that a reading level associated with a degree-level was needed. The abstract can be read here. That means the majority of patients can't access the right information online. Mis-information is very damaging, mentally and potentially physically too. It is all very well creating all these resources, but their target audience need to be able to access them!

(listen to the whole program here)

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