Tailored online health communications: A content analysis

Date

2002-08-30

Authors

Suggs, L. Suzanne

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the level, extent, and type of tailoring that exists in web-based health communications. As the research supporting tailoring in health communications grows, it is important to determine how much tailoring exists in individual web sites, to what extent tailoring is implemented in online health communications, what media are being used to deliver tailored content, and the characteristics of Web-based health applications. This study used content analysis of a convenience sample of health Web sites to address the state of online tailoring.

This study provided a baseline description of the application of a promising technique that may increase the effectiveness of health communications. A convenience sample consisting of 497 health-related Web sites was collected from eight different sources. Sites were gathered using directories of existing resources, simple searches, and print media. A code form was developed to record indicators representing general characteristics and tailoring. Additional information about the search process, affiliation, general characteristics, interactivity, and communication content was included. Data were analyzed with descriptive statistics.

The results revealed that few Web sites deliver tailored content. Of those including tailored content, the level varied a great deal. Sites including health risk assessments provided the greatest amount of tailoring. The Web was the most common assessment and communication method used in tailored sites.

The results suggest that tailoring has not emerged as an important part of health related Web sites. The limited number of Web sites containing tailored communications highlight the growth potential of Web-based health communications. This research may serve as a starting point as we develop our understanding of why tailoring works, for whom, and under what conditions.

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Keywords

Health and environmental sciences, Health communications, Online health communications, Web-based health communications

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