Earlier this week, Harris Interactive released the latest edition of a tracking poll focusing on the number of Americans who go online to find health information. The big surprise this year was that “only” 150 million US adults had reported using the Internet to find health and medical content this year. In 2007, 160 million Americans reported conducting online health research.
Harris cautioned readers not to get too excited about the poll, saying: “The difference between this year’s and last year’s survey results . . . are well within the possible sampling error.” Overall, there are still a lot of Americans turning to the Internet for health content.
In light of these results, I found a comment by Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll, especially interesting. He said: “[Currently] there are no objective measures of how accurate and reliable . . . online information actually is. [However], it seems that the Internet is positively contributing to the quality of health care.”
Examining Perceptions Of Patient & Health Provider-Generated Online Content
Research published earlier this year by iCrossing tells us that trust of the Internet lags behind its popularity. Given this, we decided to examine Americans’ perceptions of health information published by providers and patients on blogs, online forums and other Websites. We wanted to determine whether it is appropriate for us to assume that content created by patients is viewed as highly trustworthy. We found that Americans are much more likely to trust information developed by medical professionals. Except for the young, most US adults did not list patient-developed content as one of their most trusted health information sources.
Overall, this study provides us with helpful information we can use to better understand how Americans view online health content and how it influences medical decision-making. To download a summary of the survey results, please click here.