Assisting Consumer Health Information Retrieval with Query Recommendations

Bunker Hill Community College, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (Impact Factor: 3.5). 01/2006; 13(1):80-90. DOI: 10.1197/jamia.M1820
Source: DBLP


Health information retrieval (HIR) on the Internet has become an important practice for millions of people, many of whom have problems forming effective queries. We have developed and evaluated a tool to assist people in health-related query formation.
We developed the Health Information Query Assistant (HIQuA) system. The system suggests alternative/additional query terms related to the user's initial query that can be used as building blocks to construct a better, more specific query. The recommended terms are selected according to their semantic distance from the original query, which is calculated on the basis of concept co-occurrences in medical literature and log data as well as semantic relations in medical vocabularies.
An evaluation of the HIQuA system was conducted and a total of 213 subjects participated in the study. The subjects were randomized into 2 groups. One group was given query recommendations and the other was not. Each subject performed HIR for both a predefined and a self-defined task.
The study showed that providing HIQuA recommendations resulted in statistically significantly higher rates of successful queries (odds ratio = 1.66, 95% confidence interval = 1.16-2.38), although no statistically significant impact on user satisfaction or the users' ability to accomplish the predefined retrieval task was found.
Providing semantic-distance-based query recommendations can help consumers with query formation during HIR.

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    • "[17] Furthermore, consumer satisfaction with the internet as a source of medical information does not seem to be strongly related to their success in searching it.[18] [19] Furthermore, internet searches can cause unnecessary anxiety about common symptoms , cyberchondria , in individuals with little medical training.[20] More positively, there is evidence that minorities with internet access are able to engage in information searching to overcome inequality in levels of access to healthcare information.[21] "

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    • "Reliability and validity of web-based information must be addressed. It is fundamental to assist the public in developing searching [60,61] and appraisal skills but also in balancing self-reliance and compliance with medical management of illness [5] and ensure physicians have adequate communication skills [7] and are prepared for patient questions [62]. New technology such as the Internet may help considerably in this endeavour. "
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    • "Queries can provide valuable insight into the subject of information requested by users and offer guidance for better query recommendation and processing mechanisms for medical IR systems [24] [43] [26] [48]. Due to the succinct nature and users' conceptual and lexical difficulties involved in formulating queries, however, they are limited in informing researchers other aspects of people's information needs, particularly the goals and motivations of their health information seeking and the emotions involved in it. "
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