Background: Health consumers have moved away from a reliance on medical practitioner advice to more independent decision processes and so their information search processes have subsequently widened. This study examined how persons with back pain searched for alternative treatment types and service providers. That is, what information do they seek and how; what sources do they use and why; and by what means do they search for it?
Methods: 12 persons with back pain were interviewed. The method used was convergent interviewing. This involved a series of semi-structured questions to obtain open-ended answers. The interviewer analysed the responses and refined the questions after each interview, to converge on the dominant factors influencing decisions about treatment patterns.
Results: Persons with back pain mainly search their memories and use word of mouth (their doctor and friends) for information about potential treatments and service providers. Their search is generally limited due to personal, provider-related and information-supply reasons. However, they did want in-depth information about the alternative treatments and providers in an attempt to establish apriori their efficacy in treating their specific back problems. They searched different sources depending on the type of information they required.
Conclusions: The findings differ from previous studies about the types of information health consumers require when searching for information about alternative or mainstream healthcare services. The results have identified for the first time that limited information availability was only one of three categories of reasons identified about why persons with back pain do not search for more information particularly from external non-personal sources.
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