Both healthcare professionals and scholars are recognizing the potential of the Internet as a valuable channel for health communication. Compared with traditional media channels, the Internet has expanded the range of an individual’s health information seeking behavior. Although some research has shed light on the trends, patterns, and directions in general health communication scholarship, research addressing Internet-focused topics has not yet been undertaken. This study explored the trends in discipline, topic, theory, and methodology of Internet-focused research in nine top-ranked journals over sixteen years. The findings identified some notable trends and potential future directions of the field. The authors found that Internet-focused research in health communication is highly interdisciplinary. For example, researchers from both communication- and medical-related fields have contributed to this field of research. Published research about the Internet and new communication technologies in the nine journals have increased greatly over sixteen years. For instance, the number of published studies about Internet-focused research increased from 0 in 1997 to 36 in 2012. A wide range of diverse topics have been investigated, such as health information seeking, online social support, and advancements in health care. In addition, a limited number of theories and methodologies have been employed across studies. The results showed only a small amount of Internet-focused health communication articles used explicit theoretical frameworks. Interdisciplinary research efforts, specifically between scholars from communication and health-related fields are strongly encouraged to investigate Internet health communication phenomena. In addition, health communication scholars are encouraged to develop and test theories that specifically deal with new media topics.
Cui Zhang Meadows
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