Book cover

A personal review by Rod Ward of

Consumer Health Informatics:

Informing Consumers and Improving Health Care

Edited by Deborah Lewis, Gunther Eysenbach, Rita Kukafka, Zoe Stavri, and Holly Jimison

This book which was published in 2005 provides an interesting collection of papers on a wide range of technological methods which can be used to enable consumers to find out quality information related to health and assist in managing their health problems.

The paradigm shift from medical paternalism to a shared approach to care and decision making, with patient empowerment, partly brought about by the Internet and World Wide Web, is explored from a variety of viewpoints.

The book opens with attempts to define "consumer health informatics" and explores the 10 levels at which consumers participate in the access and use of health care information (based on work by Tom Ferguson) and personal case studies to illustrate the importance and potential of developments in this domain. Following chapters look at specific types of consumers of health information and the way in which it can be tailored to their needs.

Gunter Eysenbach, as well as being one the editors, provides a chapter on the design and evaluation of consumer health information web sites, which should be essential reading for anyone working in this field. Further chapters consider the different delivery mechanisms from email and discussion boards to community software, and the provision of on-line learning for healthcare consumers, and topics such as "Disability Informatics", ethical issues and the security of healthcare information systems. The book concludes with several case studies which illustrate the principles discussed.

The papers do have a North American bias (all of the authors being from the USA or Canada) and some of the specific examples are only relevant in this setting, but the coverage is broad enough to illustrate principles which apply throughout the developed world - it would have been nice to see some consideration of the developing world too.

Most of the chapters are clearly written, avoiding too much technical jargon, and supported by extensive reference lists. The book has been well edited to reduce the duplication between sections. There are some illustrations where this helps to illuminate the text and a reasonably comprehensive index to help finding specific topics.

Generally I feel this book is a useful contribution to this emerging field and is certainly worth purchase by healthcare libraries as well as providing some very useful sources for those specifically working in the provision and management of health information for consumers.


Page Created: 15.5.06

Last Updated: 15.5.06