Consumer Interest In Health Information Wanes - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Healthcare // Patient Tools
News
11/22/2011
10:23 AM
50%
50%

Consumer Interest In Health Information Wanes

Increased broadband access hasn't translated into many more people seeking medical information online.

6 Top-Notch E-Prescribing Options
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: 6 Top-Notch E-Prescribing Options
Perhaps reflecting a lack of clarity or disappointment with previous attempts to find what they're looking for, consumers seem to be losing their enthusiasm for seeking out health information, a new report suggests.

According to research by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), half of all U.S. adults in 2010 looked for information about personal health issues from sources other than their doctor within the previous 12 months. That is down from 55.5% in 2007, but still higher than the 38.8% recorded in a 2001 survey, the Washington-based, nonpartisan research organization reported.

Not surprisingly, there was a sharp dropoff in the number of people reading print media for health information. Just 18.2% said they consulted books, magazines, or newspapers to answer their health questions in 2010, down from nearly 33% in 2007. Fewer consumers turned to friends and relatives or to TV and radio for health information, too.

The degree of the decline in use of print media was "striking," according to the report, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Only the Internet showed an increase between the 2007 and 2010 surveys, but not by much. In the latest poll, 32.6% said they looked online for information about their health concerns, compared to 31.1% three years earlier. The percentage of people consulting the Internet for health information had nearly doubled from 2001 to 2007.

[ Which healthcare organizations came out ahead in the IW500 competition? See 10 Healthcare IT Innovators: InformationWeek 500. ]

"We didn't expect it to keep growing as fast as it did earlier in the decade," HSC researcher Ha Tu told InformationWeek Healthcare. The extent of the slowdown was surprising, though. Citing data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, HSC noted that 66% of U.S. households had broadband Internet access at the end of the study period, up from 47% in 2007, so it would have made sense for more people to consult online sources of health information.

However, Tu surmised that information may be less trustworthy than it once was or perhaps harder to digest, since health and medical websites can be complex and difficult to understand. She noted that MedlinePlus, a consumer health site from the National Library of Medicine, might fit this description.

"You need pretty high baseline levels of health literacy to make good use of resources like that," Tu said. Indeed, the HSC research found exactly that. "Historically, a consumer's education level has stood out as the factor most strongly associated with information seeking, and that remains true today. Information seeking rises sharply as the level of education increases," the report said. "Across all individual characteristics, education level remained the factor most strongly associated with consumers' inclination to seek health information."

Tu also noted that there has been a lot of conflicting healthcare information in the public domain, such as whether menopausal women should get hormone replacement therapy. HRT was the norm for years, until a 2002 study showed that the treatment actually could increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. Now, according to WebMD, hormone replacement therapy may be regaining favor. "Even the most informed healthcare consumer might say this is a mess," Tu said.

The new InformationWeek Healthcare supplement on EHR Best Practices explains how the most astute healthcare providers are putting those billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds to productive use. Download the supplement now. (Free registration required.)

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

News
Pandemic Responses Make Room for More Data Opportunities
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  5/4/2021
Slideshows
10 Things Your Artificial Intelligence Initiative Needs to Succeed
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  4/20/2021
News
Transformation, Disruption, and Gender Diversity in Tech
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  5/6/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Planning Your Digital Transformation Roadmap
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
Slideshows
Flash Poll