In a research, people who experienced a back and forth interaction with an online health risk analysis website were more likely to follow the health patterns suggested by the tool, according to S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Lecturer of Communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory.
“This reveals that offering information on health risks through dialogue can aid users get engaged with the tool and may positively affect their health,” says Sundar. “In common, it speaks to the design of interactive delivery of health data that it is not just engaging, but also inspiring.”
The scientists, who present their studies in the current issue of Human Communication Research, suggest that the display of interlinked questions and answers promotes a feeling of contingency and that results in better engagement with the site. Better engagement, then, may boost the likelihood that the user will adopt methods for better health.
“When you are having such back and forth interaction with a system, you are having a conversation with that system,” says Sundar. “We consider that interactivity has been accomplished when the system’s output is contingent on the input of user in a regular threaded way.” Although the back and forth feel of a conversation could result in enhanced health intentions, a more conversational tone in the messages may make users feel less susceptible to health risks like obesity, heart ailment and diabetes, according to Sundar, who worked with Saraswati Bellur, assistant lecturer of communication, University of Connecticut.
The research found that when the online tool employed short phrases, like as “Mm-hmm” and “Go on” to promote an informal conversational tool, users felt less susceptible to health risks, as per Bellur. “Such conversational tone may make them fuzzy and warm, but that is not what you intend to do with a health assessment tool,” says Bellur. “If you wish people to stand up and take action, this sort of friendly turn-taking softens the effect. But, if the aim of the interaction is to boost a sense of convenience among individuals, the same conversational tone strategy could work well, with the online tool acting like a real coach and offering reassurance,” she added.
The scientists suggest that as more individual become frustrated with the lack of direct interaction with their doctors, patients may be more interested to try online health assessments and applications. In 2012, 61% of people says they were dissatisfied with the time doctors spent talking with patients, according to a poll conducted by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson and the Harvard School of Public Health.
“We are seeking a boost in e-medicine,” says Sundar. “People are attempting to compensate for such lack of direct interaction with doctors by using online tools that are becoming exceedingly conversational.”
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