Program Session

2 - Health Insurance Information Needs: How Librarians Can Help

Monday, May 29
10:50 AM - 11:05 AM
Room: 608

Objectives: It is a widely perceived but poorly documented problem that many individuals lack clear understanding of health insurance. Librarians can address the unmet information needs that leave many unable to make appropriate health insurance choices. For those with lower levels of health insurance literacy, the ability to procure appropriate levels of health insurance coverage may be limited, which can have dire effects on individuals’ health statuses.


Methods: This study employed semi-structured interviews to explore how newly hired employees at a large university in the southeastern United States understand health insurance concepts and make health insurance purchase decisions. This paper will offer examples of the information needs they described and an analysis of the trends across individuals.


Results: Participants divulged a lack of understanding of insurance-related terminology (e.g., coinsurance). Their confidence in navigating the health insurance system decreased as education levels increased (i.e., those with a doctoral degree reported the lowest level of confidence in navigating health insurance enrollment). Participants also expressed difficulty in locating insurance information resources that were unbiased. These findings underscore an important role that librarians can play in providing access to unbiased, authoritative definitions of health insurance terms.


Conclusion: The collected data form the foundation for the construction of a model of the health insurance decision-making process and offer insight to the library and information science community on how to support health insurance information needs. The proposed model and discussion demonstrate continued difficulty with understanding health insurance concepts and the factors which impact health insurance literacy and decision-making.



Program Session

Emily Vardell

Teaching Fellow
School of Information and Library Science UNC Chapel Hill
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC

This month Dr. Emily Vardell graduated with her PhD from the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interests focus on health information behavior, particularly health insurance literacy and decision-making. She is the editor of the book The Medical Library Association Guide to Answering Questions about the Affordable Care Act, published by Rowman & Littlefield. As a Teaching Fellow, she has served as the instructor of record for graduate-level courses including Health Sciences Information and Information Resources and Services and an undergraduate course entitled Human Information Behavior.
Prior to returning for her doctoral studies, Emily was the Director for Reference and Education at the Louis Calder Medical Library at the University of Miami. Emily earned her Masters of Library Science from Texas Woman’s University in 2007 as a distance education student in Austria. She began her medical librarian career as a National Library of Medicine Associate Fellow.
Emily is currently the Section Council Liaison to the National Program Committee for the 2017 MLA conference; the Chair of the Professional Recruitment and Retention Committee; the Secretary, Treasurer, and Webmaster of the Medical Library Education Section; a member of the MLA Research Imperative Task Force; and a Past Chair of the MLA Public Health/Health Administration Section. She is also the Online Updates Column Editor for Medical Reference Services Quarterly, where she reviews a health-related database each quarter.

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