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Healthcare information behavior: Implicit collaboration with social tagging systems

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1 Author(s)
Zarro, M.A. ; Drexel University, College of Information Science and Technology, USA

Healthcare consumers in the United States are increasingly turning to the Internet for health information and advice. A majority of Internet users in the United States use the Web to find healthcare information for themselves or others. They are collaborating with other consumers in ways that were impossible before the advent of broadband connections, social media websites, and Web2.0 technologies. Some collaboration is explicit, like the posting of health topics on question answering sites like Yahoo! Answers, or joining a health maintenance discussion board. Other collaborative behaviors are less obvious and may be considered an implicit part of a healthcare consumer's Web activities. One such implicit collaboration is the use of the website Delicious.com to bookmark and tag Web-based healthcare information resources for organization and future retrieval. Tags assigned by an individual are visible to other users, resulting in a peer-created knowledge organization system of information resources. Tags can be created by the user solely for their own use, yet the community benefits from the aggregation of individual efforts. We explore the implicit collaboration through an examination of user contributed tags for consumer health resources on the social tagging website Delicious.com. This work investigates the characteristics of tags for healthcare resources on the web. Tags were collected using two methods. First, we gathered the top 100 published search terms for the consumer health website MedlinePlus, and used these terms to retrieve search results using the Yahoo! BOSS API. We then collected the most frequent Delicious.com tags for the first URL in each search. Second, human users were asked to perform fictional healthcare searches while evaluating a prototype search engine. Returned with search results were Delicious tags we collected and stored for use in guided search and other healthcare information retrieval systems. Evaluation of tags includes user intervi- - ews and comparisons to existing professional medical vocabularies and emerging resources like the Open Access Consumer Health Vocabulary [3]. In the Web2.0 model, peers have emerged as "guides" to health information, minimizing the role of established gatekeepers [4]. Finding credible, high-quality, and comprehensive health information is a continued challenge. Web users also struggle with health literacy and vocabulary gap between clinicians and laypersons. This work may lead to enhanced methods of developing consumer health vocabularies, Web search and browsing guides, and other tools for healthcare information seekers.

Published in:

Collaboration Technologies and Systems (CTS), 2011 International Conference on

Date of Conference:

23-27 May 2011