Assisting consumer health information retrieval with query recommendations.

Department of Radiology, Decision Systems Group, Thorn 309, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 75 Francis St, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (Impact Factor: 3.57). 01/2006; 13(1):80-90. DOI: 10.1197/jamia.M1820
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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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