WHAT'S ONLINE? RESEARCH ON THE QUALITY AND EVALUATION OF ONLINE HEALTH INFORMATION
 
Morahan-Martin, J. and Anderson, C.D., Bryant College, USA
 
The Internet is revolutionizing access to information. With over a billion pages online, the Internet is arguably the world's largest and most convenient library for those who have Internet access. Online information is not limited to Web pages; users also are exposed to information in discussion groups and by advertising via spams and targeted online ads. This information revolution encompasses health and mental health information as well. In the United States alone, over 60 million users have ever accessed health-related information online, a quarter of them seeking mental health information. Half of those who have sought health information online report these materials affected their decisions about treatments and care, yet the quality of online health information is mixed. For health and mental health professionals, it is critical to become proactive in educating consumers about effective use of the Internet for health information, yet little is known on how users find, evaluate and use online information. This presentation will provide an overview of the demographics of health information seeking online, and review relevant research for the following questions. How do users find online health information? How do users evaluate the health information that they find? What is the accuracy of the health information that is found online? How do users use the information that they find online? What are effective approaches to helping users find, evaluate, and use appropriate online health information? Areas for future research will be discussed.