The Doctor is In!

doctor

By Jason Kelley
June 17, 2009

Category:
Market Research

If we have not said it enough the research the folks at the Pew Internet & American Life Project conduct. It is not of any surprise that American’s turn to the internet for health advice. That may be a surprise is how many of us do so. The latest research shows 61% of all Americans us the internet to research and seek advice about a health condition. This is a jump of 144% from the same study in 2000 where only 25% use the web for personal health research.
In an additional study by “The Social Life of Health Information Online,” e-patients (those who turn to the internet frequently for health research/advice) found this group is increasing using mobile applications and sites to access and discuss health related topics/interests.

Who we ask:

When Americans have a question or concern about their or a loved one’s health they turn to the following resources according to the Pew study:
•86% of all adults ask a health professional, such as a doctor
•68% of all adults ask a friend or family member
•57% of all adults use the internet
•54% use books or other printed reference material
•33% contact their insurance provider
•5% use another source not mentioned in the list

Need to connect with others:

When going online we seek information from others who are facing the same situation as ourselves. Again, this indicates our desire to connect with others, learn from our peers and trust between people who share common issues/interests. The study found specifically:
•41% of e-patients have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website or blog.
•24% of e-patients have consulted rankings or reviews online of doctors or other providers.
•24% of e-patients have consulted rankings or reviews online of hospitals or other medical facilities.
•19% of e-patients have signed up to receive updates about health or medical issues.
•13% of e-patients have listened to a podcast about health or medical issues.
On the other hand, comparatively few are actively writing or creating new health content online:
•6% of e-patients have tagged or categorized online content about health or medical issues.
•6% of e-patients report that they have posted comments, queries or information about health or medical matters in an online discussion, listserv or other online group forum.
•5% of e-patients say they have posted comments about health on a blog.
•5% of e-patients have posted a review online of a doctor.
•4% of e-patients have posted a review online of a hospital.
•4% have shared photos, videos or audio files online about health or medical issues.
Love for Social Networking….but not about sharing personal health issues

As we know, American’s seem to have an ever increasing appetite to share their lives on Social Networking sites…in all but one area-our personal health. The Pew study found SN sites are used very rarely by consumers to post health updates or to ask health questions. The study found:
•39% of e-patients use a social-networking site, of those, only a small portion have followed their friends’ personal health experiences or updates, posted their own health-related comments, gotten any health information or joined a health-related group.
•12% of e-patients use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or to see updates about others, and of those, few have posted comments, queries or information about health or medical matters.

Digital is providing beneficial effects for our e-patients:
60% of e-patients say that information they found online had a positive impact on their decisions and/or actions. They reported:
•60% say the information found online affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition.
•56% say it changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone they help take care of.
•53% say it lead them to ask a doctor new questions, or to get a second opinion from another doctor.
•49% say it changed the way they think about diet, exercise or stress management.
•38% say it affected a decision about whether to see a doctor.
•38% say it changed the way they cope with a chronic condition or manage pain.

Most amazingly, 42% of all adults, or 60% of e-patients, say they personally or someone close to them has been aided in following medical advice or information found on the internet….however, there was not any information about if the information followed was of sound medical advice.

Just 3% of all adults, or 3% of e-patients, say they or someone they know has been harmed by following medical advice or health information found on the internet, a finding that has remained stable since 2006.