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Internet Is Top Resource for Health Info, Social Media Gaining Popularity


The internet is the most popular resource for healthcare information, but consumers most trust healthcare professionals for addressing health-related issues and questions, according to a new iCrossing report, How America Searches: Health & Wellness, reports MarketingCharts.

The study finds that one-third of online health searchers use social media resources, and search engines dominate as the starting point for healthcare searches.

The report is the latest in an ongoing series of studies commissioned by iCrossing to quantify how people search for and find information online.

Among the key findings of the study:

  • Internet is the most widely used resource for health information. 59 percent of adults use online resources to obtain health and wellness information. 55 percent go to their doctors and 29 percent talk to relatives, friends or coworkers.

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  • Doctors retain patients' trust. Not surprisingly, more than three-quarters of consumers named healthcare 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Social media an important health resource. 34 percent 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- 34-year-old health searchers; overall, men appear more likely than women to use online social media to research health and wellness issues.
  • Online activity revolves around symptoms, treatment and diseases. Those are by far the main focus of consumer attention online, with 84 percent of health searchers turning to online social spaces to educate themselves about a disease or a condition.

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 toward care and treatment options, iCrossing said.
  • For publishers 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, according to the firm.
  • To maximize relevancy, content should be oriented around the health topics that most preoccupy consumers, such as symptoms, treatment, conditions and wellness issues such as exercise, nutrition and weight loss, iCrossing concluded.

About the study: 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 US 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.

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