Tailored information on health websites increases patient-reported outcomes in cancer patients

Published on 17 March 2019 – In recent years, the number and use of health websites has grown enormously. UvA PhD candidate Minh Hao Nguyen investigated how information on health websites can be improved to support older patients (65+) with cancer in their conversations with healthcare providers.

Nguyen investigated whether tailoring the presentation format of online health information would help patients to better remember the information, reduce their anxiety and improve satisfaction with the information. She conducted five studies (two experimental studies, two field studies, and a website development study) including more than 1200 people. One group of respondents received a tailored website on which they could adjust the presentation format to their own preferences, using textual, visual and audiovisual elements on the website. The other respondents received a standard website with text-only, text with visuals, text with video, or with all presentation formats.

The experiments among the general population showed that both younger (25-45) and older adults (65+) were more satisfied with the tailored website. Older adults also remembered more information from tailored website than from the standard websites. The field studies among a population of newly diagnosed cancer patients showed that younger patients were more satisfied with the tailored website. They also felt less anxious after a consultation when they had seen a tailor-made website, compared to the standard websites. Although these results were not found for older patients (65+), they did appreciate the possibility to adjust personal preferences because they could take information in doses.

With her research Nguyen shows that adapting online health information to personal preferences is a promising strategy to optimize the effectiveness of this information for cancer patients, regardless of their age. The results of the research are therefore relevant for communication scientists and intervention designers in developing effective online health information for patients in a digital age.

Nguyen will defend her PhD dissertation on 25 April 2019. Prior to this, an ACHC symposium will be organized on 23 April on the role of visual elements in health communication.

This study was financed by the Dutch Cancer Society. The PhD project was a collaboration between the Amsterdam School of Communication Science/ASCoR and the department of Medical Psychology of the Academic Medical Center (AMC). The dissertation was supervised by prof. dr. Julia van Weert (UvA), prof. dr. Ellen Smets (AMC-UvA), prof. dr. Eugène Loos (UvA) and dr. Nadine Bol (UvA).

More information about the PhD research: click here

More information about the symposium ‘Gezondheid in Beeld’: click here