Microsoft Study of Cyberchondria   1 comment

Cyberchondria: Studies of the Escalation of Medical Concerns in Web Search

RYEN W. WHITE and ERIC HORVITZ, Microsoft Research


This article documents the research conducted by Microsoft regarding Cyberchondria. It does a good job of demystifying how those self diagnosing websites work, but what it does NOT cover will be interesting to discuss.

According to the authors: “In this article, we present the findings of a log-based study of anonymized data about online searches for medical information drawn from a large set of data on Web search behavior shared voluntarily by a large number of users of Web search engines. We focus particularly on the association between the input of search terms that describe common symptoms and shifts of focus of attention to serious illnesses—illnesses that are rarely the causes of such common complaints. We contrast medical search sessions that show a trajectory from basic symptoms to a review of content that may induce or increase anxiety with sessions that do not lead to such potentially troubling information. We supplement the log analysis where appropriate with findings from a survey of 515 individuals’ health-related search experiences. Our study’s log-based methodology lets us examine at scale how people interact with medical information and represents an initial step toward understanding cyberchondria. Its findings, and the implications drawn from them, highlight a nascent set of opportunities for researchers in academia and industry to help people wrestling with the access, comprehension, and interpretation of healthcare information.”

Posted September 20, 2010 by jenwojton in Uncategorized

One response to “Microsoft Study of Cyberchondria

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  1. I keep getting this class confused with the Research Methods class because there is so much cross-over. This article represents an excellent example of both studying new media, and using new media to do studies, in this case, large data sets based on search engine logs to uncover trends. Good find, Jen!

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