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Representations of heart failure in Internet patient information


A.L. Strong: e-mail:


Title.  Representations of heart failure in Internet patient information.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study which examined representations of heart failure in Internet patient information.

Background.  The Internet is a popular tool for sourcing health information and has been shown to benefit people with chronic conditions. Nurses as users and producers of Internet health information need to be critical of the information they provide and how this information is portrayed, to support patient knowledge development and decision-making.

Method.  A critical discourse analysis approach was used to examine representations of heart failure in a range of Internet texts. Data were collected from eight websites over 5 days in July 2006.

Findings.  The two major discursive representations evident in the heart failure texts were labelled ‘living with heart failure’ and ‘biomedical’ discourses. While both discourses were evident in all of the Internet sites, most sites privileged the biomedical discourse. Absences from the Internet information included the visibility and role of nurses along with emotional and spiritual dimensions of heart failure.

Conclusion.  Nurses should take individual needs into consideration and be able to critique websites before suggesting appropriate sites to patients. Nurses and consumers can enhance the quality of websites by becoming involved in their development to ensure that all factors that affect health are included, such as the emotional and spiritual aspects of living with heart failure and not just topics that are important within a biomedical view of health.