There has been an enormous growth in consumer Internet-based health tools intended to support tasks such as health decision making, disease management and access to services. One major concern relates to the ability of consumers to access, comprehend and effectively use the vast amount of available information. Seeking, filtering and integrating useful and valid sources of Internet health information is a complex cognitive activity and is becoming increasingly difficult with the rapid growth in number the of medical information and government websites. One group for whom this is particularly problematic is older adults as older people are most likely to need and seek medical care.
The aims of this application are to: 1) refine, through a user-centered iterative design process, a set of software aiding tools so that they can be used by health consumers, particularly older adults, in the performance of Internet-based health management tasks and 2) evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and usability of these tools among adult health consumers and the impact of the use of these tools on the performance of Internet-based health management tasks. We will also obtain information on the influence of individual characteristics such as age, cognitive abilities, and health literacy on information-seeking performance, and the perceived usability and use of the tools. The study will consist of two phases, which correspond to the two principal aims of the study: a tool refinement phase (Phase 1) in which the tools will be tailored for health information seeking and health consumers through a user-centered iterative design process, and a laboratory-based formal evaluation phase (Phase 2). Phase 1 will involve a detailed task analysis of the tools, usability testing with a diverse panel of older adults and an evaluation of the tools by two clinicians. We will refine the tools based on the task analysis and the feedback from the usability testing. Phase 2 will involve 116 adults (30 - 85 years) who will use the refined set of tools to perform """"""""real world"""""""" simulations of Internet-based health information seeking tasks. Measures will include objective measures of performance and assessments of usability. The relationships between individual characteristics (e.g., cognitive abilities) and tool use and information-seeking performance will also be explored. The proposed research represents a collaborative initiative between the Palo Alto Research Corporation (PARC) and the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine (UM). The project will build upon software technologies developed at PARC. To date, these tools have not been evaluated with novice or older adult populations or been applied to health information seeking. It will also build upon protocols developed at UM in their research program that focuses on older adults and consumer e-health applications. The objective of the proposed project is to leverage the collective expertise of both groups to develop useful and usable software tools to enable diverse older consumer groups to use e-health applications effectively. The ultimate aim is to reduce disparities in meaningful access to Internet-based health information resources.
The proposed study is extremely relevant to public health concerns. The focus of the study is on the development of software aiding tools to enable older adults to have meaningful access to e-health information. The overall goal is to provide older adults with the ability to become better informed and make better decisions regarding health issues by accessing and integrating Internet health information.