Toward a layered model of context for health information searching: An analysis of consumer-generated questions



Designing effective consumer health information systems requires deep understanding of the context in which the systems are being used. However, due to the elusive nature of the concept of context, few studies have made it a focus of examination. To fill this gap, we studied the context of consumer health information searching by analyzing questions posted on a social question and answer site: Yahoo! Answers. Based on the analysis, a model of context was developed. The model consists of 5 layers: demographic, cognitive, affective, situational, and social and environmental. The demographic layer contains demographic factors of the person of concern; the cognitive layer contains factors related to the current search task (specifically, topics of interest and information goals) and users' cognitive ability to articulate their needs. The affective layer contains different affective motivations and intentions behind the search. The situational layer contains users' perceptions of the current health condition and where the person is in the illness trajectory. The social and environmental layer contains users' social roles, social norms, and various information channels. Several novel system functions, including faceted search and layered presentation of results, are proposed based on the model to help contextualize and improve users' interactions with health information systems.