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Strategies for Supporting Consumer Health Information Seeking
Despite a growing number of available Web-based health information resources, consumers continue to face a variety of barriers as they attempt to access these resources. Developing a system that appropriately responds to user queries poses several challenges. Guided by an earlier study that analyzed a large number of queries submitted to ClinicalTrials.gov, we developed a variety of techniques to assist user information seeking. We tested the efficacy of these techniques by submitting the original user queries to our new search engine to determine if these techniques would result in better system performance. Overall, the number of query failures was reduced, but the largest improvement was found in the system's query suggestion capability. For a subset of query failures, the current system was able to cut the earlier failure rate almost in half, in most cases providing a suggestion rather than directly finding records. The techniques described here provide a new approach for responding to user queries. The techniques are tolerant of certain types of errors and provide feedback to assist users in reformulating their queries.