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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

How Symptoms Are Presented Online Influence People’s Reactions To Possible Medical Conditions

From the 14 March 2012 article at Medical News Today

…Today, people are more likely to go online to punch in their symptoms.

Details of a new study examining how symptoms presented online influence people’s reactions to possible medical conditions will be presented in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Researchers found that identifying symptoms in “streaks” – sequences of consecutive items on a list that are either general or specific – prompted people to perceive higher disease risk than symptoms that were not identified in an uninterrupted series. …

…A recent report by the Health Information National Trends Survey examined the use of Internet in seeking cancer-related information. More than 60 percent of individuals who are feeling ill go to the Internet to search for health information. Many decide to go to the doctor or not based on what they learn online,” Kwan said. “This is really an era of self-diagnosis. To our knowledge, our study is the first to examine the impact of online presentation formats on medical decision making.” ..

..”The length of the list matters,” Kwan said. “This is analogous to a dilution effect. If you don’t have that many symptoms, you may not experience concern about getting that disease if you’re looking at a long list.”

Medical implications of the study include insight into how symptoms may be presented online, depending on goals. For instance, if someone wants to increase awareness of an emerging medical issue that requires treatment, symptoms that are more likely to be checked off in sequence can be grouped together, Kwan said.

According to Votruba, “If there are concerns that the perceptions of disease risk are too high, possibly resulting in over utilization of health services, then symptom lists should alternate common and specific symptoms or create longer symptom lists.”

“Previous research shows that perception of risk of disease is a powerful predictor of health preventative behavior (such as going to the doctor),” Kwan said. “How information is presented online will make a substantive difference in behavior.”

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , | Leave a comment

   

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