Background Most studies in online health information focus on website design, medical accuracy, usability, and other intrinsic qualities. “Online trust” is a growing area of research with direct clinical relevance with patients only acting on online information perceived as trustworthy. We hypothesised patients would consider online content more trustworthy if accessed through a local, “clinician associated” portal of information. This is in contrast to the “traditional model” for internet prescribing which provides links to established websites with information, which the patient visits directly (Figure 1). A randomised controlled trial was designed to test this hypothesis.
Objectives Measure online trust of patients using a tertiary hospital rheumatology department website providing links to relevant health information in an ambulatory care setting.
Methods A randomised controlled trial was conducted with the primary outcome being online trust measured using a validated questionnaire developed by Corritore et al. . Patients in group 1 received links to online health information using the “traditional model” for internet prescription. Links were provided to selected rheumatology association websites containing credible information about rheumatology conditions and treatment options. Group 2 received a link to the local hospital rheumatology department website (“clinician associated internet prescribing”). This website was designed as a portal of information, providing direct links to the content hosted by the same websites recommended to patients in group 1. Feedback was collected two weeks after providing links using the questionnaire measuring online trust. Independent T-sample tests were performed comparing mean scores between the two groups. Patients and investigators were not blinded.
Results A total of 50 patients were recruited, with 25 in each group. The local “clinician associated” hospital website scored higher in measures of perceived credibility, ease of use, and online trust. This was statistically significant with a mean difference of 1-2 points between the two groups (p=0.01). Patients in group 2 also reported less perceived risk when using the local hospital website.
Conclusions In this study patients found online health information more trustworthy if accessed through a local “clinician associated” portal. These initial results support the use of a local online portal with potential ramifications regarding educating patients in a busy rheumatology ambulatory care setting. More research and a better understanding in this growing field of online trust will allow for resources to be developed to better educate and empower patients.
Corritore, Cynthia L., Marble, Robert P., Wiedenbeck, Susan, Kracher, Beverly, and Chandran, Ashwin, Measuring Online Trust of Websites: Credibility, Perceived Ease of Use, and Risk (2005). AMCIS 2005 Proceedings. Paper 370..
Disclosure of Interest None declared
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