A framework for characterizing ehealth literacy demands and barriers

Connie V. Chan, David R. Kaufman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Consumer eHealth interventions are of a growing importance in the individual management of health and health behaviors. However, a range of access, resources, and skills barriers prevent health care consumers from fully engaging in and benefiting from the spectrum of eHealth interventions. Consumers may engage in a range of eHealth tasks, such as participating in health discussion forums and entering information into a personal health record. eHealth literacy names a set of skills and knowledge that are essential for productive interactions with technology-based health tools, such as proficiency in information retrieval strategies, and communicating health concepts effectively. Objective: We propose a theoretical and methodological framework for characterizing complexity of eHealth tasks, which can be used to diagnose and describe literacy barriers and inform the development of solution strategies. Methods: We adapted and integrated two existing theoretical models relevant to the analysis of eHealth literacy into a single framework to systematically categorize and describe task demands and user performance on tasks needed by health care consumers in the information age. The method derived from the framework is applied to (1) code task demands using a cognitive task analysis, and (2) code user performance on tasks. The framework and method are applied to the analysis of a Web-based consumer eHealth task with information-seeking and decision-making demands. We present the results from the in-depth analysis of the task performance of a single user as well as of 20 users on the same task to illustrate both the detailed analysis and the aggregate measures obtained and potential analyses that can be performed using this method. Results: The analysis shows that the framework can be used to classify task demands as well as the barriers encountered in user performance of the tasks. Our approach can be used to (1) characterize the challenges confronted by participants in performing the tasks, (2) determine the extent to which application of the framework to the cognitive task analysis can predict and explain the problems encountered by participants, and (3) inform revisions to the framework to increase accuracy of predictions. Conclusions: The results of this illustrative application suggest that the framework is useful for characterizing task complexity and for diagnosing and explaining barriers encountered in task completion. The framework and analytic approach can be a potentially powerful generative research platform to inform development of rigorous eHealth examination and design instruments, such as to assess eHealth competence, to design and evaluate consumer eHealth tools, and to develop an eHealth curriculum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere94
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Keywords

  • Bloom's taxonomy
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive task analysis
  • Consumer health
  • E-Health
  • Health literacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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