Are you interested in contributing to HLWIKI International? contact Good eating habits are part of promoting health and wellness
To browse other articles on a range of HSL topics, see the A-Z index.
- 24 September 2013
See also Bibliotherapy | EBooks | Finding health information for British Columbians | Information prescriptions | MedlinePlus (U.S.) | Patient education
Consumer health information is information directed at a general audience rather than at individual patients. Unlike patient education, CHI is often sought without the mediation (or interpretation) of a health professional. CHI is found in a variety of media formats, and made available where other general information is typically found. Its sole purpose is to provide clear, straightforward information and facts for consumers. Whereas patient education is specifically intended to explain exams, tests and treatments to patients and their families, CHI aims to raise awareness of health and wellness issues generally. CHI is provided without much (or any) interpretation by health providers (or librarians, for that matter) — however, this may be changing in an era of shared decision-making in medicine. In using the web, consumers are often directed to MedlinePlus at the US National Library of Medicine, one of the few CHI sites that is truly well-curated and reliable. Health consumers are distinguished from patients in that they do not necessarily seek information based on a specific complaint, or illness. CHI is often sought to increase one's overall well-being and health literacy skills. CHI may also focus on health promotion and how to navigate the health care system successfully. CHI is found in a number of media including social media.
CHI has grown over the past two decades, and its growth parallels to some extent the rise of the Internet and consumer lobbying groups and their advocacy. From its earliest start in hospitals, CHI has grown into an important service component in many hospitals and health libraries, though not all. CHI can comprise opposite ends of the information spectrum from easy-to-read materials on one side to research on the other. Due to the speed of the Internet and media communications, health consumers are confronted daily with a barrage of clinical information and medical evidence. Some well-conducted studies show that the provision of accurate CHI is important in reducing patients' anxieties about treatment and in enhancing their overall compliance and consent. Adequate access to CHI is recognized as a major factor in monitoring one's own health. CHI is found in health food stores, bookstores, physicians' offices and libraries.
Due to its clear, non-technical language, CHI may refer to information about medical tests, procedures or drugs. Some people view CHI as a type of information therapy and seek the valid reliable information on sites such as MedlinePlus (U.S.). See "Answering health & medical reference questions: an introduction for information professionals", ppts and handout
Searching for health information by consumers
See also Evaluating health information | Men's Health Pathfinders | Women's Health Pathfinders
According to the Pew Internet Report, ~80% (93 million Americans) regularly search for one of 16 major health topics. Looking for health information is one of the most popular online activities after checking email (93%) and researching products before buying them (83%). Some of these statistics are duplicated in the Canadian context. Every day in North America, more than six (6) million citizens go online to locate health and medical information; more and more resort to searching online for information when they need advice or a visit to a doctor (according to data provided by the American Medical Association). Only one quarter of health information seekers follow recommended protocols on checking their sources and the timeliness of information they are reading. All consumers should be more vigilant about verifying health information when they search for it online.
The Consumers' Association of Canada states that health consumers have the right to:
- Be well-informed
- Access consumer education
- Participate in decision-making affecting their health
- Be respected as individuals with a major responsibility for their own health care
- Equal access to health care regardless of the individual's economic status, sex, age, creed, ethnic origin and location
- Taken from Policy on Consumers of Health Care, p11, Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada November 2001
Social media in consumer health
See Consumer health 2.0 & Health 2.0
- Alpi KM, Bibel BM. Meeting the health Information needs of diverse populations. Libr Trends. 2004;53(2):268–282.
- American Library Association, Reference and Adult Services Division. Guidelines for medical, legal and business responses at general reference desks. 2001.
- Baker LM, Manbeck V. Consumer health information for public librarians. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 2001.
- Bannick CR. RX for medical libraries. Library Journal. 2005:32-34.
- Barclay DA, Halsted DD. The Medical Library Association consumer health reference service handbook. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2001.
- Boden C. Overcoming the linguistic divide: a barrier to consumer health information. JCHLA / JABSC. 2009;30(3):75-80.
- Boruff JT, Plejic MJ. Facilitating access to English and French patient education materials through the creation of a database and search interface for patients and health professionals. J Consum Health Internet. 2010;14(2):109-125.
- Brawn TS. Consumer health libraries: what do patrons really want? JMLA. 2005;93(4):495-496.
- Britain’s Patient Information Forum (PIF). Making the Case for Information. The evidence for investing in high quality health information for patients and the public.
- Chubaty A. Typeface legibility of patient information leaflets intended for community dwelling seniors. Age & Ageing. 2009;38(4):441-7.
- Coberly E, Boren SA, Davis JW, McConnell AL. Linking clinic patients to Internet-based, condition-specific information prescriptions. JMLA. 2010;98(2):160-164.
- Crawford, GA. The Medical Library Association guide to finding out about complementary and alternative medicine. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers; 2010.
- Daley T. Consumer health information sources in the 21st century. DJIM. 2011;7
- Dalrymple PW, Rogers M, Zach L, Turner K, Green M. Collaborating to develop and test an enhanced text messaging system to encourage health information seeking. J Med Libr Assoc. 2013 Jul;101(3):224-7.
- Gallo-Stampino V. Improving access to multilingual health information for newcomers to Canada. JCHLA/JABSC. 2007;28(1):15-18.
- Harris R, Henwood F, Marshall A, Burdett S. Consumer health information and emerging "healthwork" roles in the public library. RUSQ. 2010;49(3):239-252.
- Higgins O, Sixsmith J, Barry MM, Domegan C. A literature review on health information-seeking behaviour on the web: a health consumer and health professional perspective. Stockholm: ECDC; 2011.
- Jordan JE, Buchbinder R, Briggs AM, et al. The health literacy management scale (HeLMS): a measure of an individual's capacity to seek, understand and use health information within the healthcare setting. Patient Educ Couns. 2013 May;91(2):228-35.
- Kayhan VO. Seeking health information on the web: positive hypothesis testing. Int J Med Informatics. 2013;82(4):268-275.
- Kelly K. Consumer health information websites with high visual design ratings likely to be also highly rated for perceived credibility. EBLIP. 2010;5(3):42-45.
- Marton C. Consumer health 2.0: a descriptive analysis of the use of web 2.0 technologies on Canadian consumer health information websites. JCHLA/JABSC. 2011;32(1):29-34.
- McCall K. Marketing the consumer health information service. Chicago: Medical Library Association, 1999.
- Medical Library Association. CAPHIS. The librarian's role in the provision of consumer health information and patient education. BMLA. 1996;84(2):238–239.
- Murray, S. Consumer health information services in public libraries in Canada and the US. JCHLA / JABSC. 2008;29(4):141-143.
- NICE. Medicines adherence: involving patients in decisions about prescribed medicines and supporting adherence. London: National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence, 2009.
- Oelschlegel S. Health information disparities? the relationship between age, poverty, and rate of calls to a consumer health information service. JMLA. 2009;97(3):225-227.
- Phipps S. Beyond measuring service quality: learning from the voices of the customers, the staff, the processes, and the organization. Library Trends. 2001;49(4):635-661.
- Schnall JG, Fowler S. MedlinePlus.gov: quality health information for your patients. AJN. 2013;113(9):64,65.
- Scola S. Experience-based information: the role of web-based patient networks in consumer health information services. J Consum Health Internet. 2008;12(3):216-236.
- Smith S, Duman M. The state of consumer health information: an overview. Health Info Libr J. 2009;26(4):260-78.
- Spatz M. Answering consumer health questions: the Medical Library Association guide for reference librarians. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2008.
- Volk RM. Expert searching in consumer health: an important role for librarians in the age of Internet and the web. JMLA. 2007;95(2);203-207.
- Wathen CN. Mediating health information: the go-betweens in a changing socio-technical landscape. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
- Young JS. Online resources for culturally and linguistically appropriate services in home healthcare and hospice, part 2: resources for asian patients. Home Healthc Nurse. 2012 Apr;30(4):225–32.
The HLWIKI International Advisory makes consumer health information (CHI) available to all -- however, it is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as advice or as a substitute for consulting a doctor. While we strive to keep all content current and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability or suitability of information, products, services, or related graphics contained here or on any of the websites listed. Only qualified health providers can provide health care e.g., they will take your health history, examine you, and bring their expertise and experience to bear on evaluating you. Put simply, advice regarding your care should always include your physician and other health providers. Please ask your local health librarian for further assistance.