Fewer Patients Looking For Health Information

hand with magnifying glassPatients find us by looking for solutions to their health problems. We like to envision a patient with a problem we treat quickly finding us either by searching online or asking friends who they would go to see.

What happens if that process never takes place?

A recent survey indicates patients are not even looking for health information at the same pace they used to.

We felt this reality in our practice

2010 was not a great year for our practice – our volume of patients treated in the office was down compared with previous years.

A recent study yields some information that at least confirms that we’re not alone. Physician visits are apparently down 4% between 2007 and 2010.

A recent study on health information searching behavior

A recent survey by a group called the Center for Studying Health System Change reveals that the percentage of American adults looking actively for information about a personal health concern in the previous 12 months dropped from 55.5% to 50% between 2007 and 2010.

Where do patients search for information. Sources in the study included:

  • internet
  • print media
  • television
  • radio
  • friends
  • relatives

The only source that was searched at an increased rate was… guess what – the internet!

Lessons you can learn from this survey

One theory on why patients are looking for information less in general is that they’re anxious and confused when they do search.

One of the researchers cites a National Cancer Institute study that concluded that patients have problems searching online for information on their health condition:

  • frustrated by the search
  • skeptical of the quality of the information found
  • results were too difficult to understand

Something called the Edelman Health Barometer 2011 concluded that 88% of patients believe that physicians are the most credible source of health-related information.

Using the above information on why patients don’t search, I would encourage you to focus on making sure your website provides patient education and information that is:

  • clearly from you, the physician (videos with you talking, on or off screen, articles written by you, etc.)
  • clearly written in easy-to-understand language
  • easy to find and digest (this comes back to making your website easy to navigate, easy to read)

Action steps

Start by reviewing the patient information you have on your site. Is it easy to find?

Use a few non-medical friends to test out your website’s usability. Watch them try to find something on the website and see how they interact with the content.

Do they get frustrated?

Do they easily find the shortest path to the information they’re looking for?

I’ve written previously about re-writing pre-existing patient education articles as a starting point for creating clear and easy-to-read content for your patients and potential patients.

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