Consumer health informatics
Consumer health informatics is a branch of health or clinical informatics that analyzes information needs of consumers, develops, tests, and implements strategies to deliver health information to consumers, and integrates consumer preferences into clinical information systems.The American Medical Informatics Association defines the subspecialty as a field devoted to informatics from multiple consumer or patient views. These include patient-focused informatics, health literacy, and consumer education.
In 2000, Houston et al. had differentiated consumer health informatics from the existing field of medical informatics “because of its frequent patient-centered approach, consumer health informatics may have an even stronger overlap with public health.”  In 2016, Demeris reflected on the past 25 years of Consumer Health Informatics, noting significant advances of the subspecialty including the addition of “Consumer Health Informatics” as a MeSH term, the invention of personal health records and consumer genomics, and the expansion of transparency of health data.  Demeris predicts the next 25 years will focus on precision medicine and resource sharing (a sharing economy).
Examples of consumer health information technologies include personal health records, smart cards, clinical e-mail communication, online pharmacies, interactive health communication technologies (IHC), health information literacy, consumer-friendly language, Internet-based strategies and resources, and other technologies which engage consumers in shared and collaborative decision-making.
The objectives of these consumer-focused informatics applications include providing information to consumers, promoting self-care, enabling informed decision-making, promoting healthy behaviors, and promoting peer information exchange and social support. A systematic review was conducted by Or and Karsh, to identify the patient acceptance of consumer health information technology. The analysis included many factors, including Patient, Human-Technology Interaction, Organizational, Environmental, Social, and Task factors. Evidence does show that Consumer Health Information Technologies (CHITs) can improve patients’ quality of life and well-being and increase medication adherence. However, technologies cannot help facilitate self-monitoring and self-management or improve patients’ health outcomes when patients do not accept technology.
In 2005, Springer published the first textbook in Consumer Health Informatics . The text covers patient empowerment, frameworks, and models for health behavior change, patient to patient and patient to provider communication, privacy and confidentiality, ethical issues, and evaluation methods. Multiple editions of this textbook are available, with the most recent publishing entitled, “Consumer Health Informatics: New Services, Roles, and Responsibilities.” Other textbooks within the field focus on specific areas (i.e., the intersection of digital health with consumer informatics) and revising the foundations of the field.
Listed below are sites that give a general overview of the field:
- International Medical Informatics Association Consumer Informatics Working Group - http://www.imia-medinfo.org/new2/node/137
- Consumer Health Informatics: American Medical Informatics Association; https://www.amia.org/applications-informatics/consumer-health-informatics
- Consumer Health Informatics: Is There a Role for HIM Professionals? - Article in Perspectives in Health Information Management
- AMIA Consumer Health Informatics Working Group - https://www.amia.org/working-group/consumer-health-informatics
- Eysenbach, G. Consumer health informatics. British Medical Journal, 2000; 320, 1713-1716.
- Houston TK, Chang BL, Brown S, et al. Consumer health informatics: a consensus description and commentary from American Medical Informatics Association members. Proc AMIA Symp 2001;269–73.
- Demiris G. Consumer Health Informatics: Past, Present, and Future of a Rapidly Evolving Domain. Yearb Med Inform. 2016;Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S42-S7.
- Lewis D, Eysenbach G, Kukafka R, Stavri PZ, Jimison H. (Eds). Consumer Health Informatics: Informing Consumers and Improving Health Care. 2005; New York: Springer.
Submitted by Matthew J. Cook, MPH and Rose C. Goueth, MS