The influence of personal knowledge management on individual health care decision-making : an action learning approach : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management at Massey University, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand
Background: Making effective health care decisions is important. Despite the large volumes of
information available, individuals often face personal limitations evaluating this information and
making optimal decisions. Personal knowledge management has been suggested as a method
of addressing information barriers and improving decision-making. Personal knowledge
management has, however, been mostly applied within an education context, in order to improve
individuals’ learning performance. From the available literature in this area, very limited research
or significant conceptual development has been undertaken on personal knowledge management
and its influence on decision-making, particularly in the health care context.
Aims and Significance: This study examines an effective personal knowledge management
strategy for older adults (aged between 46 and 75) with limited computer/technological skills by
answering the following questions: How do older adults access and evaluate information and
knowledge for health care decision-making? How can personal knowledge management help
older adults with limited computer/technological abilities manage their information and knowledge
for health care decision-making? How effective is an action learning training program in
supporting older adults with limited computer/technological abilities for health care decision-making? The aim of this study is to provide an understanding of the use of action learning and
personal knowledge management pertaining to older adults’ health care decision-making.
Examples of relevant health care concerns include, diabetes and obesity or other issues of this
nature, but are exclusive of severe health issues, such as cancer. The findings will offer educators
and researchers an understanding of ways to help these individuals to navigate the world of
information regarding critical personal decision-making, with specific reference to health care.
Method: To investigate this issue, a qualitative study was conducted using action learning with
thematic and grounded theory coding techniques. New Zealand patient health care support
groups and churches provided a source of older adults with health-related issues as volunteers.
Participants were asked to practice personal knowledge management strategies, focusing on
their personal health-related issues after each learning session. In the following session, the
issues or experiences that the participants encountered whilst conducting their self-practice
exercises, within their groups were discussed.
Findings: This study found that the older adult participants in this study used Google, Facebook
closed groups, YouTube, online videos, health care support groups, family and medical
professionals as information sources before embarking upon this training program. To evaluate
alternative treatment options, these participants rely predominantly on family, friends, medical
professionals and their personal life experience for decisions. This study found that major factors
that negatively impacted older adults’ effective information interpretation and decision-making
include: barriers to accessing accurate and relevant health care information and knowledge,
barriers to computer-based technology use, and humanistic barriers. The findings suggest that a
four-stage personal knowledge management strategy could help older adults (with limited
computer/technological skills) to overcome the barriers to effective information interpretation, and
making informed health care decisions.
Finally, this study suggests some practical training/learning techniques for older adults. For
instance, major individual health-related issues of the older adults within the pre-training program
need to be confirmed, followed by a warm welcome prior to the commencement of the training
program. I learned that it is important to pre-diagnose participants’ abilities in learning and
computer-based technology before designing the training program. This can help to develop an
appropriate training program for a specific cohort.
Conclusions: The findings of this study contribute to the development of an academic
understanding of personal knowledge management conceptualisation in the consumer decision-making field, with the aim of improving older adults’ information and knowledge management
processes. This study serves as a vantage point for further empirical research in personal
knowledge management and older adult education and training.