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Do we understand online information given by healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • At: PPR 2022 (2022)
  • Type: Poster
  • By: KORAćEVIć, Maja (University Of Nis, Faculty Of Medicine, Department of Pharmacy)
  • Co-author(s): Maja Koraćević, PhD student, University of Nis, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pharmacy, Serbia
    Aleksandar Jovanović, PhD student / Teaching Associate, University of Nis, Innovation Center, Serbia
    Dragana Pavlović, Assoc. Prof., University of Belgrade - Faculty of Pharmacy, Serbia
    Marina Odalović, Assoc. Prof.
    Ivana Tadić, Assoc. Prof.
    Aleksandra Catić - Đorđević, Head of Pharmacokinetics and Clinical Pharmacy

  • Abstract:

    Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for timely and reliable health information to optimize citizens’ self-protective engagement. Due to preventive measures, such as lock-down and physical distancing, people relied on the internet more than before. There is a large gap in our knowledge about health information-seeking pathways on the internet, especially with the appearance of the COVID-19 infodemic. Results of our work may help healthcare professionals to better communicate and educate citizens in everyday practice.
    Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on searching for and understanding online health information, as well as reliance and confidence in the information gathered from various online sources.
    Method: An online survey was conducted using Google Forms on a sample of anonymous respondents in Serbia. The link for the questionnaire was posted on social media channels and was accessible from April to May 2020, during the epidemic outbreak. The survey included questions on socio-demographic characteristics and behavior in seeking and evaluating online health information sources. We compared the responses collected at a one-time point in regard of period before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health care professionals were excluded from the study. Data were managed using the IBM SPSS Statistics and included methods of descriptive and inferential statistics.
    Results: The age of participants was 37.82±11.11 years in average. Out of 351 respondents, 66.7% were women, 47.9% were university graduates, and 76.6% were employed. At the beginning of the pandemic, the average time for health-related information searching on the internet and social media significantly increased (p<0.01). The majority of participants found important the profession of the author of health information published on the internet (N=305, 86.9%) and on social media (N=272, 77.5%). Prior to COVID-19, the respondents valued the most (on a 5-point rating scale) the information obtained from physicians (4.33±0.75) and pharmacists (4.12±0.79), followed by health officials (3.73±1.02) and journalists (2.66±1.02). This trend continued during the pandemic. Understanding of health information published on the internet and/or social media decreased significantly (from 3.82±1.01 before to 3.67±1.14 during the pandemic, measured on a 5-point rating scale, p<0.01). This decrease in the understanding of health information was significantly influenced by gender (p<0.05). The level of education and employment status significantly impacted the understanding of health information before the pandemic (p <0.05 for both variables), while during the pandemic these factors did not prove to be statistically significant.
    Conclusion: Citizens' interest in health has grown significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, their understanding of health information during this global crisis has decreased. This underlined the importance of clarity of the health information provided online. Physicians and pharmacists are marked as online health information providers with the highest level of confidence at the time of infodemic. They should be more involved in writing and disseminating accurate, precise, clear health information, adjusted to all categories of the population, to improve public health.
    Keywords: health information; Internet research; COVID-19 pandemic; infodemic;
    Topic area: Public health - Pharmaceutical health care

Last update 4 October 2019

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