More Consumers Use Web Sites To Find Health Information, Survey Finds
One in three U.S. residents used the Internet to find information on a medical problem in 2004, according to a survey released Tuesday, Investor's Business Daily reports. Researchers from the Pew Internet and American Life Project surveyed more than 900 people -- of which two-thirds were regular Internet users -- and found that since 2002, more people are using the Internet to find information on diet and nutrition or particular doctors or hospitals (Howell, Investor's Business Daily, 5/18).
The survey also found that 51% of those surveyed in 2004 used the Internet to research a treatment or procedure, compared with 47% of those surveyed in 2002, the first year Pew conducted the study. In addition, 40% of those surveyed in 2004 used the Internet to research prescription and over-the-counter drugs, compared with 34% in 2002. Researchers also found that 23% of those surveyed in 2004 researched experimental treatments on the Internet, compared with 18% in 2002 (Investor's Business Daily chart, 5/18).
The most-visited Web sites were those affiliated with Web MD, with 11.18 million U.S. residents viewing the sites in April, and sites affiliated with NIH, with 8.1 million U.S. residents visiting in April, according to a separate survey by comScore Media Metrix (Investor's Business Daily, 5/18).
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Pew survey "paints an encouraging picture of ever-savvier health care consumers who are researching doctors, paying attention to warnings about obesity and poor nutrition, considering entering clinical trials in greater numbers and taking steps to better manage their health care costs." However, the survey "also raises concerns about a new digital divide," the Journal reports.
According to the survey, 42% of those with a college degree reported using the Internet for researching a particular hospital or doctor, compared with 28% of all other users. In addition, 41% of those with at-home broadband Internet access researched health information online, compared with 19% of those with a dial-up connection (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 5/18).
"More and more people are turning to search engines as a first stop in the middle of the night when a symptom flares up or after (going to) a doctor's appointment," Pew Associate Director Susannah Fox said.
JupiterResearch analyst Monique Levy said that while use of the Internet has increased, few people use it to manage their health care on a regular basis. "Pharmaceutical companies have built Web sites that have a whole variety of tools to try to help consumers track and manage conditions. We see that activity has been pretty low," Levy said (Investor's Business Daily, 5/18).
The report is available online. Note: You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.