The Continuing Evolution of Consumer Healthcare Information-Gathering Practices

health informationWith the interminable discussion and disagreement about the (so-called) Affordable Care Act we’ve been having lately, it’s easy to lose sight of some of the other important developments in health care and related behavioral trends.

One of them is how people are evolving in the way they obtain their health information.  A new consumer survey helps provide insights.

The survey, conducted among nearly 1,100 Americans age 18 or older by healthcare communications consulting firms Makovsky Health and Kelton Global, shows that U.S. adults visit a physician three times per year, on average.  That’s not much different from what previous research shows.

At the same time, however, American consumers now spend an average of over 50 hours per year researching health information on the Internet.  And they’re accessing such information all over the place – from health-oriented websites to social media. 

WebMD continues to have pride of place among healthcare online resources:

  • WebMD:  ~53% of adults access during the year
  • Wikipedia:  ~22%
  • Health magazine websites:  ~19%
  • Advocacy group websites:  ~16%
  • YouTube videos:  ~10%
  • Facebook:  ~10%
  • Blogs:  ~10%
  • Pharmaceutical company websites:  ~9%

Because health subject matters can be rather complicated or detailed, one would suspect that most people might do their research using a PC rather than devices with less screen-viewing or printing capabilities.  And this research bears that out:

  • ~83% use PCs the most to find health information online
  • ~11% use tablets the most
  • ~6% use smartphones the most

[However, tablet usage has grown from just 4% in the 2012 survey, while PCs have declined by a similar margin.]

The influence of consumers’ own doctors remains as strong as ever.  When asked what would motivate consumers to visit a pharmaceutical company’s website for information, the survey respondents cited physicians over any other motivational influence:

  • Physicians:  ~42% of respondents would be motivated by this source
  • News articles:  ~33% would be motivated
  • TV advertising:  ~25%
  • Drug discount card:  ~14%
  • Magazine advertising:  ~13%
  • Web/online advertising:  ~11%
  • Newspaper advertising:  ~9%
  • Radio advertising:  ~9%

… All of which leads one to wonder if most of the dollars being spent by pharma companies on radio, TV, magazine and web advertising are simply wasted. 

Really, this type of pharmaceutical advertising would appear to be “spray and pray” … on steroids.

Here’s a final piece of information from the Makovsky/Kelton survey that was quite revealing — perhaps even startling:  With all of the talk about the Affordable Care Act, as of the time of this survey a few months back, one-third of respondents reported that they had never spent any time researching the reforms and how they might affect them. 

… And another third indicated that they had spent less than one hour total researching the topic.

What’s wrong with that picture?

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