A Rhetorical Perspective on Trust in E-Health Websites

by Abigail Bakke

Institution: University of Minnesota
Year: 2015
Keywords: credibility; e-health; ethos; internet; trust; Web 2.0
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2069896
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/11299/175438


This dissertation is centered on the issue of trust in e-health, a product of the internet opening access to information at a broad scale. Medicine, as a discipline whose authority has traditionally been based upon expertise and hierarchy between physician and patient, is one domain in which this increased access has led to special concern. My study intervenes in ongoing discussions about e-health information by asking 'How does trust operate in e-health sites?' �and does so from a rhetorical perspective. Through a comparative rhetorical analysis of three e-health sites that represent a continuum of informational to interactive, I found that trust operates in e-health sites in ways one might expect such as the use of credibility features to construct an expert ethos, but trust also operates socially in newer ways that are based upon community and personal experience, aligning with the broad shift to Web 2.0. This study has implications for the field of rhetoric and technical communication, in that it poses trust as a viable framework for understanding online information rhetorically and views e-patients as citizen technical communicators. This study also has implications for the design of trustworthy e-health communication.