180 Million American Adults Looking for Health Information Online

Pew Internet Project study

A recent study this month by the Pew Internet Project and California HealthCare Foundation tells us that 8 out of 10 internet users look for health information online.

Women continue to serve as family gatekeepers

Women were more likely to report that they gathered information online than men. Marketers in almost every field maintain that women are responsible for buying decisions in American households.

Education level corresponds with online searching for health information

Only 38% of adults with less than high school level of education go online. 93% of those with a college education are online.

89% of college-educated internet users look for health information online.

Surely this information has implications for how you write patient education articles and how you organize and present yourself online.

Other groups more likely to look for health information online:

  • caregivers
  • women
  • whites
  • adults in higher-income households

Top specific health-related topics searched for online include:

  • food safety or recalls
  • drug safety or recalls
  • pregnancy and childbirth
  • memory loss and dementia
  • medical test results
  • managing chronic pain
  • long-term care
  • end-of-life decisions

What this means for you as a provider of online information

If your practice targets any of the above groups, you have affirmation that your market is out there, hungry for information. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there’s more competition, and you’ll have to improve your delivery and your content quality to reach those people.

It may inspire you to focus on one or more of these areas more intently over the next six months of your online activities.

For example, if you have a large population of baby boomers in your practice, they may be more concerned about aging and dementia than you realize. You could create a set of articles or a “Guide to Battling Memory Loss” in PDF form, available to your patients or visitors to your site. This builds trust and confidence that you’re an expert in this area.

And finally, regardless of how you feel about treating patients who can or can’t afford to pay you what you charge, patients who can afford it are in fact searching for health information. Whether it’s your information that will be in front of those searchers’ eyeballs is up to you.

You can read about the Pew Internet study here.

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