Searching for Information in Online Health Communities

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 ( 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm )

Location: BC 221

[email protected]

Howe School Research Colloquium

Yan Zhang, Ph.D., School of Information, University of Texas at Austin 

ABSTRACT:  With the fast development of the Web 2.0 technologies, more health consumers, particularly those with rare and/or chronic diseases, turn to social media to interact with peers with similar conditions. In these communities, users exchange medical information, share personal stories, seek practical advice, discusses how to manage challenges in daily lives, as well as seek or provide emotional support. Although the health outcome of such participation and interaction is inconclusive, people value the information received from these communities. It not only helps shape their explanatory model of diseases, affect treatment decisions, and influence health behavior change, but also affects their relationships with family, friends, and healthcare providers and their personal identity. Therefore, users’ behavior of searching for information in online health communities merits a close examination. Using the lens of information behavior, we studied consumers’ behavior of seeking and evaluating information to fulfill their information needs in this emerging information environment. Both theoretical and practical implications of the results were discussed.  

BIOGRAPHY:  Yan Zhang is an assistant professor in the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. She holds a Ph.D. in Information Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on the general consumers’ behavior of interacting with search engines and social media for health-related information and the design of personalized context-aware health information systems. Her work has been published in various journals including Journal of Medical Internet Research, Journal of American Society for Information Science and Technology, and Information Processing and Management.