Study: Chronic Condition Patients are Going Online for Health Information | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

Study: Chronic Condition Patients are Going Online for Health Information

December 2, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints

U.S. adults living with chronic conditions are increasingly looking online for health information, but the majority of them are still fact-checking that information with a medical professional, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center and the California HealthCare Foundation.

The Pew Research Center’s analysis indicates a “diagnosis difference” that is tied to several aspects of healthcare and technology use. For example, holding other variables constant (including age, income, education, ethnicity, and overall health status), the fact that someone has a chronic condition is independently associated with being offline.

The diagnosis difference cuts another way, too. This study provides evidence that many people with serious health concerns take their health decisions seriously—and are seriously social about gathering and sharing information, both online and offline.

The study of 3,104 U.S. adults found that internet users living with one or more conditions are more likely than other online adults to:

  • Gather information online about medical problems, treatments, and drugs.
  • Consult online reviews about drugs and other treatments.
  • Read or watch something online about someone else’s personal health experience.

Thirty-one percent of U.S. adults living with chronic conditions say they have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. They are more likely than other “online diagnosers” to talk with a clinician about what they find:

  • Sixty percent of online diagnosers living with chronic conditions say they talked with a medical professional about the information they found online, compared with 48 percent of online diagnosers who report no conditions.
  • About half of online diagnosers living with chronic conditions say that a clinician confirmed their suspicions, either completely or in part. About one in five say that a clinician offered a different opinion.

Trackers living with chronic conditions are also more likely than others to take formal notes, to track on a regular basis, and to share their notes with other people, particularly clinicians. Fully 72 percent of trackers living with chronic conditions say that keeping notes of any kind has had an impact on their health routine or the way they care for someone else, compared with 55 percent of trackers who report no conditions.

“Our research makes it clear that when the chips are down, people are most likely to get advice from a clinician, but online resources are a significant supplement,” Susannah Fox, lead author of the study and an associate director at the Pew Research Center, said in a statement. “Just as significantly, once people begin learning from others online about how to cope with their illnesses, they join the conversation and also share what they know.”

According to research, 45 percent of U.S. adults report that they live with one or more chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, lung conditions, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. They are more likely than other adults to be older, to have faced a medical emergency in the past year, and, as other studies have shown, to contribute to the explosion of healthcare costs in the U.S.

Topics

News

Dignity Health, CHI Merging to Form New Catholic Health System

Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI), based in Englewood, Colorado, and San Francisco-based Dignity Health officially announced they are merging and have signed a definitive agreement to combine ministries and create a new, nonprofit Catholic health system.

HHS Announces Winning Solutions in Opioid Code-a-Thon

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hosted this week a first-of-its-kind two-day Code-a-Thon to use data and technology to develop new solutions to address the opioid epidemic.

In GAO Report, More Concern over VA VistA Modernization Project

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report is calling into question the more than $1 billion that has been spent to modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) health IT system.

Lawmakers Introduce Legislation Aimed at Improving Medicare ACO Program

U.S. Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) have introduced H.R. 4580, the ACO Improvement Act of 2017 that makes changes to the Medicare accountable care organization (ACO) program.

Humana Develops Medication Management Tool

A new tool developed by Humana enables the company’s members to keep a list of their medications in one place.

Four Hospitals Piloting OurNotes Initiative in 2018

Beginning in January, four academic hospitals—Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, University of Washington in Seattle, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire and University of Colorado in Boulder—will begin piloting a new digital tool called OurNotes that enables patients to contribute to their clinical notes.