Internet Is Top Resource For Health Information

Armen Hareyan's picture
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iCrossing announced the results of "How America Searches: Health & Wellness," the latest in an ongoing series of studies commissioned by iCrossing to quantify how people search for and find information online.

The report provides insights into the habits of online U.S. adults seeking information about health topics.

The study finds that the Internet beats doctors as the most popular resource for healthcare information, but healthcare professionals still hold the upper hand in retaining consumers' trust when addressing health-related issues and questions. The study also finds that one-third of online health searchers use social media resources, and that search engines dominate as the starting point for health care searches.

KEY FINDINGS

* Internet is the most widely used resource for health information: 59% of adults use online resources to obtain health and wellness information. 55% go to their doctors and 29% talk to relatives, friends or co- workers.

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* Doctors retain patients' trust: Not surprisingly, more than three-quarters of consumers named health care professionals (primary care physicians, specialists, nurses, and pharmacists) as their most trusted health resource. Internet resources, however, are considered by respondents more trustworthy than friends/coworkers, pharmaceutical companies and television.

* Social media an important health resource: 34% of health searchers use social media resources to delve into health-related topics, with Wikipedia, and online forums and message boards the most important individual tools. Social media holds a particular appeal for 18-to-34 year old health searchers, while overall, men appear more likely than women to use online social media to research health and wellness issues.

* General search engines dominate: Two-thirds of online adults have used general search engines (e.g. Google, Yahoo!, MSN and Ask) to find health-related information, making them the default gateway for this as well as many other topics; usage of health-specific search engines -- such as Healia, Medstory, Fealth, Kosmix and Healthline -- is minimal by comparison.

IMPLICATIONS

The results of "How America Searches: Health & Wellness" suggest that online resources, particularly general search engines, healthcare portals and a range of social media, play a central role is steering consumers towards care and treatment options. To take full advantage of opportunities to connect with in-market health consumers, content must be available in and optimized for a range of formats, and ideally should comprise a truly interactive component that allows consumers to socialize. In order to maximize relevancy, content should be oriented around the health topics that most preoccupy consumers, such as symptoms, treatment, conditions and wellness issues including exercise, nutrition and weight loss.

Methodology

This report presents the findings of a survey conducted among a sample of 1,084 adults comprising 513 men and 571 women 18 years of age and older. The online omnibus study was conducted twice a week among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,000 adults 18 years of age and older using the Greenfield Online panel. Interviewing for this survey was completed on December 3-4, 2007. The raw data was weighted by a custom designed program. Each respondent was assigned a single weight derived from the relationship between the actual proportion of the population based on U.S. Census data with its specific combination of age, sex, geographic characteristics and race and the proportion in the sample. Tabular results show both weighted and unweighted bases. Because the sample is based on those who initially self- selected for participation, no estimates of sampling error can be calculated. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with non-response, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.

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