Department of Medicine; Department of Quantitative Health Sciences; Meyers Primary Care Institute
Health Communication | Medicine and Health | Public Health Education and Promotion
BACKGROUND: Health information exchanged between friends or family members can influence decision making, both for routine health questions and for serious health issues. A health information broker is a person to whom friends and family turn for advice or information on health-related topics. Characteristics and online behaviors of health information brokers have not previously been studied in a national population.
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to examine sociodemographic characteristics, health information seeking behaviors, and other online behaviors among health information brokers.
METHODS: Data from the Health Information National Trends Survey (2013-2014; n=3142) were used to compare brokers with nonbrokers. Modified Poisson regression was used to examine the relationship between broker status and sociodemographics and online information seeking.
RESULTS: Over half (54.8%) of the respondents were consulted by family or friends for advice or information on health topics (ie, they acted as health information brokers). Brokers represented 54.1% of respondents earning < $20,000 yearly and 56.5% of respondents born outside the United States. Women were more likely to be brokers (PR 1.34, 95% CI 1.23-1.47) as were those with education past high school (PR 1.42, CI 1.22-1.65). People aged > /=75 were less likely to be brokers as compared to respondents aged 35-49 (PR 0.81, CI 0.67-0.99). Brokers used the Internet more frequently for a variety of online behaviors such as seeking health information, creating and sharing online content, and downloading health information onto a mobile device; and also reported greater confidence in obtaining health information online.
CONCLUSIONS: More than 50% of adults who responded to this national survey, including those with low income and those born abroad, were providing health information or advice to friends and family. These individuals may prove to be effective targets for initiatives supporting patient engagement and disease management, and may also be well-positioned within their respective social networks to propagate health messages.
UMCCTS funding, health care decision-making, health information seeking, patient self-management, peer communication, social network
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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.
DOI of Published Version
J Med Internet Res. 2016 Jun 3;18(6):e123. doi: 10.2196/jmir.5447. Link to article on publisher's site
Journal of medical Internet research
Cutrona SL, Mazor KM, Agunwamba AA, Valluri S, Wilson PM, Sadasivam RS, Finney Rutten LJ. (2016). Health Information Brokers in the General Population: An Analysis of the Health Information National Trends Survey 2013-2014. Open Access Articles. https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.5447. Retrieved from https://escholarship.umassmed.edu/oapubs/2814