Humanizing eHealth tools boosts patient trust

Humanizing decision-support computer aids for patients helps to increase trust of such tools, according to new research out of Clemson University.

Design and look of an aid are important, according to Clemson psychology associate professor Richard Pak, who found that, for instance, adding an image of a person to an electronic support tool "significantly alters [patient] perceptions" for the better. As a result, decision-making reaction time of patients becomes quicker.

"A plausible explanation is that the increase in trust led to an increased dependence on the aid, which led to faster performance," Pak said, according to a university announcement.

Pak's research, which focused on use of a computerized decision-making aid for people suffering from diabetes, was published this week in the journal Ergonomics.

In a similar study published this week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, researchers determined that eHealth applications should target the cognition and empowerment characteristics of patients in order to improve the quality of results achieved.

"Condition-specific eHealth applications, along with their intended effects on condition-specific empowerment, may have adverse effects on a general sense of empowerment," the authors wrote. "In plain words, patients who are effectively being told their condition is manageable and controllable may get the impression that other conditions are not."

The researchers added that an eHealth application should be "as predictive and explanatory as it is parsimonious."

To learn more:
- here's the Ergonomics abstract
- read the announcement from Clemson University
- check out the JMIR research

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