The Web Tells Us What We already Know

The research considered how people use Internet search engines to answer health questions.

“Even if people read the right material, they are stubborn to changing their views,” said one of the authors, University of New South Wales (UNSW) Professor Enrico Coiera. “This means that providing people with the right information on its own may not be enough.”

“We know that the web is increasingly being used by people to help them make healthcare decisions,” said Coiera. “We know that there can be negative consequences if people find the wrong information, especially as people in some countries can now self-medicate by ordering drugs online. Australians can order complementary medicines online and these can interfere with other medications.”

“Our research shows that, even if search engines do find the ‘right’ information, people may still draw the wrong conclusions – in other words, their conclusions are biased.”

What also matters is where the information appears in the search results and how much time a person spends looking at it, according to the research. “The first or the last document the user sees has a much greater impact on their decisions,” said Professor Coiera, who is the Director of the Centre for Health Informatics at UNSW.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of New South Wales