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Open Access Highly Accessed Correspondence

The experiential health information processing model: supporting collaborative web-based patient education

Laura A O'Grady1*, Holly Witteman2 and C Nadine Wathen3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Healthcare, Technology and Place, Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, University Health Network, R. Fraser Elliott Building, 4th floor, Toronto General Hospital, 190 Elizabeth Street, Toronto, ON M5G 2C4, Canada

2 Interactive Media Lab, Human Factors, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Health Care, Technology and Place, University of Toronto, 5 King's College Circle, Toronto, ON M5S 3G8, Canada

3 Faculty of Information & Media Studies, The University of Western Ontario, North Campus Building, Room 254, London, ON N6A 5B7, Canada

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2008, 8:58  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-8-58

Published: 16 December 2008



First generation Internet technologies such as mailing lists or newsgroups afforded unprecedented levels of information exchange within a variety of interest groups, including those who seek health information. With emergence of the World Wide Web many communication applications were ported to web browsers. One of the driving factors in this phenomenon has been the exchange of experiential or anecdotal knowledge that patients share online, and there is emerging evidence that participation in these forums may be having an impact on people's health decision making. Theoretical frameworks supporting this form of information seeking and learning have yet to be proposed.


In this article, we propose an adaptation of Kolb's experiential learning theory to begin to formulate an experiential health information processing model that may contribute to our understanding of online health information seeking behaviour in this context.


An experiential health information processing model is proposed that can be used as a research framework. Future research directions include investigating the utility of this model in the online health information seeking context, studying the impact of collaborating in these online environments on patient decision making and on health outcomes are provided.