Use of Q&A by Patients with Chronic Illness

The population of patients with multiple chronic conditions, also known as multimorbidity, has immensely increased over the past few decades [1]. Multimorbidity impacts negatively patient’s life quality, hospitalization and mortality [2, 6]. Patients have become more actively involved in their healthcare decisions, and to fulfill their need for information, they use a variety of online resources. One of these resources is online questioning and answering (Q&A) sites. Online Q&A sites allow patients to post questions for other users to answer directly as an alternative way to finding information through search engines [3], especially when the latter have failed to fulfill patient information needs [4]. 

Compared to single diseases, multimorbidity impose more complex requirements and a higher risk of adverse medication events on patients [5]. By consulting multiple providers responsible for single diseases, patients can potentially receive conflicting clinical advices. Thus, multimorbid patients may need to be better informed about their health conditions. 

Prevalence of Multimorbidity

My dissertation focusses on the online behavior of patients with multimorbidity. Specifically, I explore the online interaction and information-seeking behaviors of patients across different types of Q&A sites. In addition, my dissertation aims to identify distinctive features of questions quality in Q&A sites from multiple aspects including content, affect, and language . This, will consequently provide an insight into understanding what features are more influential and help us determine those that significantly contribute to questions quality. Based on these features, I will develop online design guidelines that assist patients with improving their questions to meet their health information needs. Findings from this research will have implications for designing online Q&A sites to better support patients with multimorbidity.

My presentation at 2019 INFORMS Annual Meeting [HERE]


  1. Christine Buttorff, Teague Ruder, and Melissa Bauman. 2017. Multiple Chronic Conditions in the United States. 
  2. Linda Richter Sundberg, Rickard Garvare, and Monica Elisabeth Nyström. 2017. Reaching beyond the review of research evidence: A qualitative study of decision making during the development of clinical practice guidelines for disease prevention in healthcare. BMC Health Services Research 17, 1: 1–14.
  3. Chirag Shah, Sanghee Oh, and Jung Sun Oh. 2010. Research agenda for social Q&A. Library and Information Science Research 31, 4: 205–209.
  4. Qiaoling Liu, Eugene Agichtein, Gideon Dror, Yoelle Maarek, and Idan Szpektor. 2012. When web search fails, searchers become askers. Proceedings of the 35th international ACM SIGIR conference on Research and development in information retrieval – SIGIR ’12: 801.
  5. Donna M. Zulman, Emily C. Jenchura, Danielle M. Cohen, Eleanor T. Lewis, Thomas K. Houston, and Steven M. Asch. 2015. How Can eHealth Technology Address Challenges Related to Multimorbidity? Perspectives from Patients with Multiple Chronic Conditions. Journal of General Internal Medicine 30, 8: 1063–1070.