Trust in Health Websites: A Review of an Emerging Field

Laurian Vega, Enid Montague, Tom Dehart
Virginia Tech & University of Michigan

As people increasingly turn to health websites for the purposes of self-diagnosis and healthier living, we have an obligation to evaluate the factors that might affect a given user's assessment and their willingness to use such sites. Constructs such as quality, trust, and credibility need to be defined within this space in order for us to truly understand how and why people use health websites. In an effort to better understand these constructs we conducted a comprehensive analysis of all peer-reviewed empirical studies on trust in health websites -- this paper is the result. Work on this topic was provided from eleven fields including HCI, Informatics, Medicine, and Decision Making. Our findings show that authors often value different facets of trust, report different outcomes, and rarely cite each other. Without a coherence of terms and values, the task of presenting and understanding how users trust health information on the web will be intractable.

Content Analysis of Word Frequency
Top ten most frequently used words Frequent words then graphed by area of research
47 35 24 12 0


Understanding Reliability Communication Experience









4% 4% 6% 6% 4% 2% 2%


5% 5% 8% 8% 5% 3%



Medicine (14 papers) Health Informatics (11 papers) Computing (9 papers) Communication (3 papers) Health Services & Healthcare (3 papers) Info. & Library Science (3 papers) Social Sciences (3 papers) Decision Making (2 papers) Media & Society (1 paper) Pharmacology (1 paper)



Social Network Analysis
This network is a representation of the social network analysis of all empirical papers on trust in health websites. Boxes represent papers and edges represent citations. Location from top to bottom indicate position in network. Colors are used in this figure to clarify different cliques (e.g., Bates, Menon, and DuttaBergman form a clique as these three papers cite each other).

Viewing health records

Interacting with others about health

Communicate with nonproviders about health Search for health information Communicate with providers online




Analysis of Outcome by Area
Usability Medicine Health Informatics 0 18% 77% 33% 0 33% 33% 50% 0 0 Content of the Webpage 0 45% 66% 0 0 66% 33% 100% 100% 0 Informational Factors 13% 45% 66% 0 33% 66% 33% 100% 0 0 Contextual Factors 33% 18% 18% 0 33% 66% 0 100% 100% 0 Demographics 20% 36% 36% 33% 33% 33% 33% 0 0 0 Computing Communication Health Services & Healthcare Information & Library Science


View health information Technology Collate personal health information

Social Sciences Decision Making Media & Society Pharmacology


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