Study: 3 in 4 Adults Go Online for Health Research

Study: 3 in 4 Adults Go Online for Health Research

634 396 Rob Lovitt

What do you call someone who goes online to obtain health care information? At Harris Interactive, the folks behind the Harris Poll, they call them “cyberchondriacs,” adding that the term applies to more people all the time.

In a survey tracking the growing influence and use of health care information obtained online, the company reports that 74% of adults have gone online at some time to look for health information, with 60% having done so in the previous month.

The poll also found that:

  • 39% of Internet users reported that they “often” look for health care information online, up from 32% in 2010
  • The most popular source for information was search engines (69%), followed by medical websites (62%)
  • Twice as many respondents (16%) used forums where people ask and answer questions as general-interest social media sites (8%), such as Facebook and Twitter

At the same time, the poll also shows that people are increasingly satisfied with the information they find online, hitting 90% for both the success of their searches (very or somewhat successful) and the reliability of the information they obtained.

What’s it all mean? According to Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll:

“As the influence of the Internet as a valued source of health care and medical information continues to grow, all stakeholder groups including the health care industry, medical societies, NGOs and government agencies need to work hard to ensure that they are providing the public with relevant, user-friendly and reliable information.

Doctor Takeaways:

1. Be search-engine savvy

With the majority of consumers starting their searches with search engines, you need to be where they are and you may not need a high-priced SEO consultant to get you there. Compelling content, judicious use of keywords and inbound links from relevant websites in your topic area are among the best way to boost your page rank on the major search engines

2. Think globally, promote locally

On Google, 20% of searches demonstrate local intent; on Bing, the number climbs to 53%, according to SearchEngineLand.com. To ensure people can find you online, make sure your physical address and local phone number are on your website and take advantage of free listings on Bing Local, Google Places and Yahoo! Local. Verify your listing with the free services at GetLocal.Org

3. Self-diagnosis is the future

A recent Google search for “health care information” returned 536 million hits — clearly, all sites, and the information they provide, are not created equal. Be prepared for increased self-diagnosis by patients. More consultation time will be spent discussing — and debunking — information gleaned from the Misinformation Superhighway.

Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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