How do you make an informed medical decision in the age of the internet?

New research from Massey University is evaluating the impact of too much information for medical patients.
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New research from Massey University is evaluating the impact of too much information for medical patients.

A way of handling endless medical advice in the age of the internet will be tested as part of new research.

A Massey University PhD student is testing a new way of dealing with information overload when making healthcare decisions.

Yi-Mei Huang has developed a programme that guides patients through a step-by-step process to improve the way they deal with large volumes of information.

Massey University PhD student Yi-Mei Huang.
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Massey University PhD student Yi-Mei Huang.

Huang said "personal knowledge management" was a process to help people to manage large amounts of information.

It  was designed to help them improve critical thinking skills.

"In a health context it could really help patients to absorb information without generating confusion, leading to better, more confident decision-making," she said.

Huang is seeking participants to help be involved in her research.

"I am looking for people who are facing a medical treatment decision, such as for diabetes or other chronic health issues, and are feeling confused and struggling with a large amount of treatment information."

Participants would gain insights, including strategies for managing information and making important decisions.

She stressed it was an educational programme, not a healthcare advisory programme.

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Those who took part in an earlier phase of the research had seen good results.

"People who participated in the first cycle of the training programme said it enhanced their skills and understanding of knowledge management and allowed them to make more confident decisions about their healthcare."

Her PhD supervisor Dr David Pauleen, from Massey University's School of Management, said the research could have useful implications for the health sector.

"Healthcare professionals encourage patients to participate in their own treatment decisions to get the best outcomes, but with the growth of internet and social media usage people are now overwhelmed with the volume of information available to them.

"Information can often be contradictory and it can be hard to locate the material that is of most use – traditional methods of managing and evaluating information are no longer suited to the digital age."

Participants in the research must be aged 18 years or over and able to commit to weekly two-hour training sessions for five weeks.

The programme will be run in a month's time.

 - Stuff

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