The majority of U.S. adults are e-health seekers, yet little is known of their format and content preferences for receiving e-health communications on drug information (DI).
This study compares different formats of on-line DI responses by pharmacists to web-based inquiries from e-health seekers.
Based on an assessment of current on-line DI content and formatting by professional-run DI programs and the Food and Drug Administration, a typical e-pharmacist-generated DI response was mocked-up in either a paragraph or revised outline e-mail format. These formats were tested in prospective survey at a local community center. Outcome measures included: overall preferences for paragraph vs. outline formats, ease of reading, and usability. Analysis was based on categorical ratings of yes/no/uncertain, 5-point Likert ratings, and open-ended questions.
Most on-line professional DI sites use an unstructured paragraph format and typically do not apply readability principles. Participants in the prospective study reflected the published profile of the e-health seeker: mainly female, Caucasian, between 18-49 years of age, and college educated. A majority (75%) preferred the outline format overall verses the paragraph format (p<0.001), reporting it was easier to read (73%), better organized (74%) and easier to find a specific recommendations within the body of the response (81%). Most (>80%) also favored use of headers, inclusion of credible website links for more information, and a courtesy drug-drug interaction review.
Most on-line professional sites providing responses to e-health seeker queries on medication issues do not reflect consumer preferences for the format and content of the information.
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