Positive attitudes and failed queries: An exploration of the conundrums of consumer health information retrieval

Qing T. Zeng, Sandra Kogan, Robert M. Plovnick, Jonathan Crowell, Eve Marie Lacroix, Robert A. Greenes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

76 Scopus citations


Several studies have found that consumers report a high level of satisfaction with the Internet as a health information resource. Belied by this positive attitude, however, are other studies reporting that consumers were often unsuccessful in searching for health information. In this paper, we present an interview and observation study in which we asked health consumers to search for health information on the Internet after first stating their search goals. Upon the conclusion of the session they were asked to evaluate their searches. We found that many consumers were unable to find satisfactory information when performing a specific query, while in general the group viewed health information retrieval (HIR) on the Internet in a positive light. We analyzed the observed search sessions to determine what factors accounted for the failure of specific searches and positive attitudes, and also discussed potential informatics solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-55
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004



  • Consumer health
  • Information retrieval
  • Internet
  • Interview study
  • Observation study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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