Last year, the company reported that 117 million Americans searched online for health content. This year, the number has increased to 136 million, mainly due to an overall increase in the percentage of Americans using the Internet.
Reliability Of Online Information
Another interesting finding is on the usability of the information people find online. According to Harris:
- 87% of respondents believe that the health informtion they find online is "reliable" This percentage has declined from 90 percent in 2005. Also, fewer people consider the information they find to be "very reliable." 37 percent believed online health content was reliable in 2005 verus 25 percent in 2006.
- As I've discussed elsewhere, people are using the information they find on the Internet in discussions with their physicians. However, Harris found that fewer people are doing this. 45 percent report sharing content with their doctor this year versus 52 percent in 2005.
This is an interesting survey that provides some great insights into how people are using the Internet to find healthcare information. Also Harris' methodology is very sound (they surveyed people via telephone) and transparent (they provide full methodological information about the survey in the press release).
What's also intriguing is that people are less satisfied with the information they are finding online. What's needed are search engines that specialize in providing people with reliable and releveant healthcare-related content. Fortunately, companies like Healia, Healthline, WebMD are attempting to fill this role. Google, the most popular search engine has Google Co-op, but early reviews of this service have been mixed.
I also wonder how many people are viewing information on healthcare blogs? Given the growing importance of the healthcare blogosphere, I would suggest that Harris add a question to their survey asking whether people are getting health information from blogs and if they believe they are credible sources of content. Of course, the major difficulty is that people may not know they are visiting a blog. Despite this, the answers may be interesting.
I've covered the issue of online health search and its implications quite a bit on this blog. To read additional analysis and commentary on this subject, please click on the links below.
- Audience Fragmentation & Social Media: Why Healthcare Is Different
- What Are The Implications Of Google Health?
- An Alternative To Google Co-op?
- Healthline & Healia Respond To AOL's Release Of Users' Private Search Data
- Yes, Humans Are Still Important: A Lesson On The Dangers Of Google