May 11, 2010

Frequently Asked (But Unanswered) Questions About E-Patients

As I’ve written before, I love questions. It’s an honor to be handed someone’s nascent idea and to help them shape it (which is what I think a question really is). But this time I’m asking for YOUR input.

These excellent questions were sent to me by Liav Hertsman and his colleagues at Tel Aviv University, who hoped that I had all the answers.

If only.

I can tackle the first one on my own, but I need help with the others. If you have any tips to share — observations, journal articles, researchers interested in similar questions — please add them in the comments on e-patients.net.

1. How would you describe the typical online active e-patient in terms of demographics?
2. In which stages of the diseases do e-patients usually need medical information the most? Why?
3. In which stages do they search for information about drugs?
4. How substantial is the e-patients’ drug search in comparison with their overall search about health?
5. How dominant and reliable is user-generated content (UGC) information in the eyes of e-patients?
6. Do e-patients who are interested in UGC also tend to cross-check the information, using professional sites or do they tend to rely solely on the UGC? Why?
7. What do the e-patients value more, specific information or general information? Is it treatment stage related?
8. In your opinion, should a health site offer diverse information or focus only on one area of expertise? Why?
9. What tools are important to have on a health site (i.e. communities, experts’ reviews, doctors’ ratings, drugs’ ratings, etc.)? Should a health site offer several tools? Why?
10. Do e-patients prefer a one-stop-shop site, where they can find every information related to health and every tool they need, or do they prefer to gather information from several sites, each with a specific specialization?
11. What causes an e-patient to return to a specific health site?