Evaluation of Consumer Health Informatics Definitions: A Systematic Review of the Peer-Reviewed Literature, 1995-2012
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Introduction: Consumer health informatics (CHI) is an emerging field that utilizes technology to provide tailored health information for the consumer. It is multidisciplinary in nature and stands at the crossroads of a multitude of other disciplines. It is also one of the most rapidly advancing and challenging subfields in medical informatics. However, there is no single accepted definition of CHI in the literature and a consensus definition would be important for pedagogical reasons, to build capacity, and to reduce confusion about what the discipline consists of. Therefore, the objective of this thesis research was to systematically review the published definitions of consumer health informatics and evaluate them based on a set of assessment criteria to gain a better understanding of their quality. Methods: Five databases were searched (Embase, Web of Science, MEDLINE, CINAHL, and Business Source Complete) resulting in 1109 citations. Twenty-three studies met the inclusion criteria. Definitions were appraised using 5 criteria (with each scoring out of 1): use of published citation, multidisciplinarity, journal impact, definition comprehensibility, and text readability. Results: Most definitions scored low on citation (mean±SD: 0.22/1 ±0.42/1), multidisciplinarity (0.15±0.28), and readability (0.04±0.21) and somewhat higher on impact factor (0.35±0.45) and definition comprehensibility (idea density) (0.87±0.34) criteria. The highest scoring definition was written by Shaikh et al. (2011) and achieved a score of 3.5, with the lowest definition score attributed to Gibbons et al. (2009) which received a score of 0. Overall, the quality of the published definitions was low 1.63±0.80 (out of 5). Conclusions: The definitions of CHI were variable in terms of the quality assessment criteria. This finding suggests the need for continued discussion amongst consumer health informaticians and other key players to develop a clear consensus definition about CHI. This unified definition could in turn inform the development of core competencies for this discipline and its utility in public health practice.