While the Internet provides many opportunities for increased levels of care and access to information services in the area of public health, many web designers are not yet taking full advantage of its potential. This study looks at Intensive Care and Palliative Care, as important instances where health informatics could improve public web-based services, in meeting the particular information needs of family members of critically and chronically ill patients. This study is significant in adopting an approach to the usability testing of websites based on concepts from Activity Theory. This takes a realistic and practical approach, which identifies the purpose of the web-site from an end-user perspective and then tests it in situations which simulate typical real-life activities of the user. The results of this work indicate that, with current website designs, face-to-face communication is still the preferred means to fulfil the public’s need for health information when family members are in care. The websites used in this study, as is the case with most community health web-sites, did not allow interaction or direct communication between clinicians and the public. The results indicate the rising need for multifaceted modes of communication with different languages, multimedia, and interactive features.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/sumayya_banna/4/