Where Do Consumers Get Their Medical Information?

March 30, 2017

As any physician can attest, patients come to appointments with an impressive array of medical information. Where are they getting it?

The Traditional Source Still Leads — Barely

man and woman sharing tablet

According to recent Health Management Academy and Healthgrades research, more than one in three consumers (37%) still consider their doctor to be their primary source of medical information. But the majority (58%) are getting information elsewhere.

Third-party websites like healthgrades.com are second (22%) only to a patient’s doctor as the place where consumers get most of their medical information. Social sources — namely, family and friends — are the next-most popular source of healthcare information, at 13%.

Consumers can best be described as conflicted about hospital websites. They consider them to be high-quality sources of medical information; however, a mere 4% actually visit those websites.

Nearly Everyone Is Searching for Healthcare Information Online

One commonality is that the vast majority of consumers in every age group, both male and female, are searching for healthcare information online. Millennials lead, at 92%, while those ages 65 and up lag slightly behind, at 79%. Parents with children are more likely to perform online health searches (91%) than childless adults (83%).

Healthcare information searches also increase with technology aptitude. Social media users are more likely (90%) to search for healthcare information than non-users (68%). Chronic disease sufferers who have downloaded smartphone health apps are more likely to perform healthcare information searches (97%) than those without health apps (84%).

As consumers face growing healthcare financial responsibility with higher deductibles and co-pays, online healthcare information searches will only increase. Consumers will rely more heavily on third-party websites to research health conditions, both before and after doctor’s appointments.

How Consumers Prefer to Receive Personal Health Information

When they have the opportunity, consumers also prefer to receive personal health information in person (53%) from their doctors. At other times, they prefer email (15%), apps (14%), and phone calls (9%).

Health systems are primarily getting it right: 60% of the time they deliver personal health-related information in person, while they use an app or a phone call 14% and 8% of the time, respectively. Email use could improve, as healthcare organizations use it only 7% of the time.

Increase the Quality of Your Patients’ Healthcare Information

How can you improve the quality of healthcare information your current and prospective patients receive? Go beyond the walls of your organization to reach them wherever they are:

1. Go where consumers search for healthcare information. Promote your organization and your doctors on healthcare information websites that patients visit the most. They will find you at the same time they are actively seeking advice, and they will associate you with useful, high-quality health information.

2. Push personal health information in preferred ways. Patients spend most of their time outside of the doctor’s office. So face-to-face communication opportunities during appointments are limited. Ask for their preferred virtual communication methods (email, app, or phone) and use them. Push appointment reminders, health alerts, and chronic condition education to your patients and improve their personal health.

Where are consumers getting medical and personal health information? When they can’t get it directly from their doctors, you can find them online.

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