How can consumers of internet health care information be segmented? a systematic review

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Stevenson, Ronald C.
Oregon Health & Science University
Internet; Consumer Health Information; Review Literature as Topic
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Objective To systematically review the literature on the segmentation of Internet consumer healthcare information seekers and identify variables that characterize these seekers. Methods Search strategy: Electronic databases searched included Business Source Premier, CINAHL, Compendex, EBSCOHost, ERIC, LISTA, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Web of Science, ISI Proceedings, SocINDEX, Sociological Abstracts, Library Literature, PAIS International, and Dissertations and Masters Theses. A manual search of references from citations retrieved from these databases was also performed. Inclusion criteria: I included all study types that investigated consumers seeking information on the Internet and either compared healthcare information seekers with nonseekers, or compared segments within the healthcare information seeking population. Outcomes sought in the studies were 1) searching for consumer healthcare information on the Internet, and 2) the frequency of such searches. I also sought articles describing the segmentation of Internet healthcare information seekers. Data extraction and synthesis: I screened all papers and assessed studies against the selection criteria. The resulting data was compiled and assessed, but no attempt was made to combine the data for statistical analysis. Results I identified 18 studies that met inclusion criteria. Most of the included studies were analyses of surveys. Internet healthcare information seekers have been described and compared with non-seekers using a variety of demographic, psychographic, behavioral, situational, medical, and computer-related characteristics. The importance of the variables found to characterize seekers is assessed. Conclusion Internet healthcare information seekers may be segmented using a variety of demographic, geographic, psychographic, behavioral, medical, computer/Internet-related, and situational variables. Demographic variables are the best studied; psychographic and behavioral factors may be more important but are less well studied. There is a lack of segmentation studies and controlled studies on variables describing Internet healthcare information seekers.