The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released a report, “The Social Life of Health Information”, that contains results from a survey on the way people are seeking out health information. The survey was focused on U.S. respondents only.
As can be expected, Americans are now turning more and more to online sources for information. In the past, patients typically called a health professional, their Mom, or a good friend. Today they are also searching online, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, updating their social network profile, and posting comments. And many people, once they find health information online, talk with someone offline about that information they have found online.
Some interesting findings from this survey:
- 57% of respondents use the Internet when locating health information
- Two-thirds of people that find information online then discuss with someone else their findings
- 60% of respondents have said that information they have found online has impacted the way they have then pursued treatment.
- 41% of e-patients have read another person’s commentary or experience about health or medical issue
Also interesting was the finding that "e-patients" - what the authors called people who look online for health info - are more likely to engage in social media in general, compared with other Internet users. For instance, e-patients are more likely than non-health seekers to have created or worked on their own blog, read someone else's blog, used a social networking site, used a micro-blogging site, and other activities. Small numbers of people are using social software like Twitter and Facebook. Mostly these services are used to follow another person’s health issue and then perhaps include their own commentary on the health issue.
As use of the Internet and social media increases, it's not surprising that more people are searching for health information and participating and engaging in health-related communities. As these people search for and create their own content, this will put added pressure on providers to embrace social media in order to participate in the discussion.
Read the entire report here: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/8-The-Social-Life-of-Health-Information.aspx.