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Form vs Substance: Cancer Patients Prefer Attractive Websites in Choosing Health Treatments

Oct 20, 2016 04:58 AM EDT
Design Counts
From a study presented during the 2016 Clinical Congress, experts found out how a website's layout and orientation, including a user-friendly facade with lots of visual aids are more likely to be referred to by cancer patients. In seeking for references before making decisions about their treatments, despite the sites offering lower accuracy, the web design itself has been the most crucial factor of patients' preferences.

(Photo : Lalmch / Public Domain/Pixabay)

A study presented during the 2016 Clinical Congress has highlighted on their results regarding the preferences of cancer patients on choosing the right treatment for them from the world wide web. It goes to show that what actually convince them is the way webpages were arranged, and not actually on the crucial information made available on the site.

Focusing on websites featuring cures for pancreatic cancer, the research team led by Astorina Storino, MD, of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston has carefully analyzed the clients and web-users' perception on the health pages that they visit. "We know from our prior work that patients are utilizing the Internet to obtain health information, so as physicians advocating for pancreatic cancer patients we want to know that this online information is accurate and understandable," Storino said on a press release.

To understand possible website preference, Storino and her colleagues recruited ten people who participated voluntarily. They were given a method of evaluation, following the Suitability Assessment of Materials (SAM) as their instrument. SAM tries to quantify the website's layout, content's appropriateness, readability of the texts, effectivity of visual aids, learning stimulation as well as cultural appropriateness. Participants were also asked on how likely they would recommend the website.

Interestingly, the research team found out that websites with highest SAM scores were those having pictures and videos posted on their webpages. Mostly, the websites with the most user-friendly layout was preferred and more likely to be recommended. It was also noted that websites which usually have this type of layout are those that feature pancreatic cancer treatments with less reliability. Websites featuring clinical trials, considered to have the highest accuracy in providing the details and information, ranked the lowest.

Read: Summary of the study presented during the 2016 Clinical Congress

The most important finding is that the volunteers focused on how user-friendly the websites were and if they had pictures or not. The fact that having a friendly layout was what got the attention of patients is a shocking finding," said Dr. Storino on an article. "This finding is important because it implies that patients select user-friendly websites and assume they are accurate, relying on website creators to obtain accurate information"

Co-author Tara S. Kent, MD, MS, FACS and assistant professor from Harvard Medical School has also expressed appreciation on the results of their study. She mentioned that learning the preference of the people can trult guide practitioners to guide their patients well in using online sources. "We now know that pictures are important to online users so we could identify or create websites that provide accurate information and enhance usability with pictures; and as a surgeon, I can suggest websites to patients and families that I have already vetted for accuracy, and that I think they would like," said Dr. Kent added.

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