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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

Memphis Doctoral Student Published Study on Medical Information Seeking Behavior among Family Caregivers to Cancer Patients or Survivors

A study led by Ms. Hyunmin Kim, a doctoral student of health systems management and policy at the University of Memphis School of Public Health investigated medical information seeking behavior among family caregivers to cancer patients or survivors by types of health information technology.  The study also examined the difference in medical information seeking behavior between family caregivers and the general public.  Family caregivers play an important role in caring for cancer patients since they exchange medical information with health care providers. However, little is known about their medical information seeking behavior.

[Photo: Ms. Hyunmin Kim]

The study results reveal that overall, the use of the Internet is more common, while the use of mobile health applications (apps) is less common for medical information seeking among family caregivers as compared to the general public.  The study also found that married family caregivers are less likely to use mobile apps, while family caregivers who would trust cancer information are more likely to use the Internet for medical information seeking than the general public.  The study findings suggest that health care professionals may provide cancer patients, their caregivers, and those with specific health needs educational materials or sessions that teach them how to utilize mobile apps in health care that have been proven effective. “Health policymakers and insurance providers may consider policies that promote the use of effective mobile health care applications that have been shown to contribute to improving health outcomes via subsidies or other incentives”, added Dr. M. Paige Powell, an assistant professor of health systems management and policy at Memphis, who is also a co-author of the study.

The study also found that individuals concerned about the quality of cancer information from other sources are more likely to use mobile apps in exchanging medical information with a health professional than those not concerned, suggesting that they trust the cancer information source more than being concerned about the mechanism by which they receive the information.  The authors point out that, as a matter of fact, the Internet has many unregulated and unassessed sources of information that can mislead users; thus, there is a need for better assessment of the quality of online information.  Another co-author of the study, Dr. Soumitra Bhuyan, an assistant professor of health systems management and policy at Memphis, addresses privacy and security issues in mobile health applications, and emphasizes the importance of protecting individuals’ health information online.

The authors highlight the importance of medical information seeking behavior among family caregivers, since it can be an important predictor of both their health and the health of their family members with cancer.  The study findings suggest that future research should explore the low usage of mobile health applications among the family caregiver population.  The study used data from the 2014 Health Information National Trends Survey 4 Cycle 1 (HINTS 4), a nationally representative health information survey collected by the National Cancer Institute, due to its availability of information on use of mobile apps.  The study also utilized the Comprehensive Model of Information Seeking (CMIS) as a conceptual framework, which enabled the authors to select variables that can explain individuals’ seeking of medical information using health information technologies with a comprehensive approach.

The findings from this study were published online in the March issue of the Journal of Medical Systems.

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