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Trust and Credibility in Web-Based Health Information:A Review and Agenda for Future Research

Rowley, JE and Sbaffi, L (2017) Trust and Credibility in Web-Based Health Information:A Review and Agenda for Future Research. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19 (6). ISSN 1439-4456

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Abstract

Background: Internet sources are becoming increasingly important in seeking health information, such that they may have a significant effect on health care decisions and outcomes. Hence, given the wide range of different sources of Web-based health information (WHI) from different organizations and individuals, it is important to understand how information seekers evaluate and select the sources that they use, and more specifically, how they assess their credibility and trustworthiness. Objective: The aim of this study was to review empirical studies on trust and credibility in the use of WHI. The article seeks to present a profile of the research conducted on trust and credibility in WHI seeking, to identify the factors that impact judgments of trustworthiness and credibility, and to explore the role of demographic factors affecting trust formation. On this basis, it aimed to identify the gaps in current knowledge and to propose an agenda for future research. Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted. Searches were conducted using a variety of combinations of the terms WHI, trust, credibility, and their variants in 4 multi-disciplinary and 4 health-oriented databases. Articles selected were published in English from 2000 onwards; this process generated 3827 unique records. After the application of the exclusion criteria, this was reduced to a final dataset of 73 articles, which were analyzed fully. Results: Interest in this topic has persisted over the last 15 years, with articles being published in medicine, social science, and computer science and focusing mostly on the United States and the United Kingdom. Documents in the dataset fell into 3 categories: (1) those using trust or credibility as a dependent variable, (2) those using trust or credibility as an independent variable, and (3) studies of the demographic factors that influence the role of trust or credibility in WHI seeking. There is a consensus that in terms of website design, clear layout and design, interactive features, and the authority of the owner have a positive effect on trust or credibility, whereas advertising has a negative effect. With regard to content features, authority of the author, ease of use, and content have a positive effect on trust or credibility formation. Demographic factors influencing trust formation are age, gender, and perceived health status. Conclusions: There is a considerable scope for further research. This includes increased clarity of the interaction between the variables associated with health information seeking, increased consistency on the measurement of trust and credibility, a greater focus on specific WHI sources, and enhanced understanding of the impact of demographic variables on trust and credibility judgments.

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