The role of internet resources in health decision-making: a qualitative study

Lauren Bussey, Elizabeth Sillence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
67 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: Internet resources remain important for health information and advice but their specific role in decision-making is understudied, often assumed and remains unclear. In this article, we examine the different ways in which internet resources play a role in health decision-making within the context of distributed decision-making.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with thirty-seven people in the United Kingdom who reported using the internet in relation to decision-making and represented a range of long and short-term health conditions. The interviews focused on decision-making activities across different settings and in relation to different stakeholders to understand how internet resources play a role in these activities. We carried out a thematic analysis of the interviews.

Results: We identified three main ways in which internet resources played a role in health decision-making. A supportive role (as a decision crutch), a stimulating role (as a decision initiator), and an interactional role (impacting on the doctor–patient relationship). These three roles spanned different resources and illustrated how the decision-making process can be impacted by the encounters people have with technology – specifically internet based health resources, in different ways and at different time points.

Conclusions: Examining health decisions in respect to internet resources highlights the complex and distributed nature of decision-making alongside the complexity of online health information sourcing. We discuss the role of internet resources in relation to the increasing importance of online personal experiences and their relevance within shared decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Article number205520761988807
JournalDigital Health
Early online date7 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2019


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