Benefits of Interactive Health Communication

1. Improved opportunity to find information tailored to the specific needs or characteristics of individuals or groups of users (Harris, 1995).

2. Improved capabilities of various media to be combined with text, audio, and visuals and of matching specific media to the particular purposes of the intervention or the learning styles of users (Harris, 1995).

3. Increased possibility for users to remain anonymous by providing access to sensitive information that people may be uncomfortable acquiring in a public forum or during a face-to-face discussion. Computer-based interfaces also can increase a participant's willingness to engage in frank discussions about health status, behavioral risks, fears, and uncertainties (Robinson, 1989; Locke et al., 1992; Gustafson et al., 1993; General Accounting Office, 1996).

4. Increased access to information and support on demand because these resources often can be used at any time and from numerous locations (Harris, 1995; General Accounting Office, 1996).

5. Increased opportunity for users to interact with health professionals or to find support from others similarly situated through the use of networking technologies such as e-mail, which enables direct communication between individuals, despite distance or structural barriers (Robinson, 1989; Harris, 1995; General Accounting Office, 1996; Pingree et al., 1996).

6. Enhanced ability for widespread dissemination and for expanding an audience at a limited incremental cost once the necessary hardware infrastructure is in place (General Accounting Office, 1996; Eng et al., 1998).

SOURCE: Robinson et al. (1998).

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