Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
In 2000 the UK Department of Health commissioned a national evaluation to determine the impact of digital health information and advice services on consumers. By conducting such a wide study and by analysing the literature, the knowledge vacuum on the consumer usage of digital health information became evident. In addition the scale and detail of the evaluation itself was unprecedented: the research covered a continuous period of five years (2000‐2005), analysed the online behaviour of 868,500 digital health consumers, evaluated 8.5 million views of digital health‐related web pages, implemented a wide range of methods to estimate digital health services and analysed three kinds of digital platforms and ten major health services in considerable detail. The unparalleled extent of this study, the depth of analysis and the power of results make it a milestone in the field of digital health information consumer services.
The findings of this research are the subject of the book presented here. In 230 pages the authors describe in plain language the aim, methodologies and results of the study. The book has a rational and rigorous structure, a clear exposition of arguments and a pleasant style.
After an introductory chapter, where the aims of the book, methodologies of research and their limits are explained, a detailed and exhaustive literature survey is described (chapter 2). The following three chapters are dedicated to the three different digital platforms analysed in the project: health kiosks, health websites and health digital interactive television (diTV). For each platform the kind of service offered, its functionality and location, and users' experiences are described. Finally, two chapters are dedicated to a comparison of platforms and to barriers and inequality of services.
The book offers many lessons. First, the evaluation described is certainly a benchmark for future similar evaluations. Second, the results provided by this evaluation (according to the authors, the largest evaluation of health information consumers ever conducted) provide a basis for strategies aimed at providing the general public with digital health information. Third, the scientific structure of the book, which reflects the strong scientific procedure of the research project, is a brilliant example of the applied scientific method.
These characteristics make the book a valuable instrument for a much wider public than that for which it was originally conceived – namely health professionals and health decision makers, to give them support for decisions and innovations. Beyond these target groups, the everyday digital health consumer will find here interesting reading to assist in thinking about individual approaches to health information.