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The Second Opinion How the Web Drives Healthcare Decisions

2 minute read | September 2008

Melissa Davies

The Pew Internet & American Life Project today released the results of its latest survey into how and when Americans use the Internet to gather health information. In The Social Life of Health Information, Pew reports that Americans are turning to an increasingly broader array of online and offline resources in their search for health information.

Highlights from the report include:

  • 83 percent of online adults have looked on the Web for health information. (Since 2002, Pew Internet Project surveys have consistently found that 75-83 percent of Internet users look online for health information.)
  • Half of online health inquiries are done on behalf of someone else, such as a family member or friend.
  • 57 percent of e-patients say that their most recent online health inquiry had an impact on their own healthcare or the way they care for someone else.
  • 60 percent of e-patients say they or someone they know has been helped by following medical advice or health information found on the Internet (a significant increase from 31 percent in 2006).

This survey also finds that the Internet does not replace healthcare professionals — a finding that echoes results of Nielsen’s 2008 study into the online and offline resources that people use as part of the healthcare decision-making process. Instead, e-patients take the health information they find online and use it to inform their offline conversations with healthcare professionals, family and friends.

As is always the case, Pew Internet Project’s latest report is a fascinating look at our online behavior, and I am looking forward to the chance to dive further into the data.

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