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Phys. Referrals Leading Patients to Search for Health Information Online

September 10, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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Patients are educating themselves online, spending 52 hours annually looking for health information on the web and some of this comes from physician influence, reveals a recent survey.

The results of the survey, conducted by New York-based companies, Makovsky Health and Kelton, found that 51 percent Americans are likely to visit a pharma-sponsored website after receiving a diagnosis from their physician. Forty-two percent of the approximately 1,000 people surveyed said they had gone to a pharma website after being referred by a physician. Overall, the survey looked at how U.S. consumers are using the web to research health information.

Other findings from the survey were that WebMD was the most frequented online source for healthcare information (53 percent), nearly one-fourth of consumers use social media to seek healthcare information, and most Americans use a personal computer for health searches – not a tablet or smartphone.

In addition, the surveyors found that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) wasn’t that popular of a research item. Thirty-three percent of consumers have spent less than an hour researching ACA information in the past year, with 32 percent of respondents stating they have never researched healthcare reform.

“Though it may seem counterintuitive, the current lack of Affordable Care Act research is logical given human behavior – just look at how many people file their taxes a week before the deadline,” Tom Bernthal, the CEO of Kelton, said in a statement. “These information-seeking patterns could suggest an increased pressure for healthcare companies to get it right during this critical countdown to the launch of the health insurance marketplace. The test of success for these companies will be the ability to simplify complex information for the millions of insurance-naïve, confused and anxious consumers entering the changing system.”

Similar studies have shown that Americans are using the web, more than ever, to search for health information. One from Harris Interactive found that 26 percent of American adults that have used the internet have discussed health information online in the past 12 months

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