Thursday, May 19, 2011

Who Do Patients Trust Online?

A national consumer study we recently conducted found that news websites, particularly those run by health magazines and WebMD, remain the most trusted online healthcare resources, according to 68% of respondents. The survey revealed that user-generated contributions on Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs are less frequently sought out by health-information-hungry consumers, cited by 54% of those surveyed.

The survey, conducted in March 2011 by Kelton Research, a leading national public opinion company, polled 1,111 nationally representative consumers aged 18 and older.

I’m really not surprised by the findings. User-generated contributions to sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor are doing quite well, but when it comes to health issues, credentials matter more. While patients create online communities to share their experiences, they're still returning to reputable news sites and professionals for facts and information they can trust.

Through this survey, we gained deeper insight into how patients engage online. The survey explored patients’ information-seeking behaviors on specific social media channels, identifying WebMD as the most popular for health searches, with almost half (48%) of Americans visiting the site. Among other findings:

  • Only 3% of consumers visit Twitter feeds for healthcare information.
  • Patient communities’ websites are visited by 7% of respondents.
  • Facebook sites rank as the fourth most-frequented resource; with 11% of Americans turning to the ubiquitous site for healthcare information.
    • Pharmaceutical company-sponsored Facebook pages rank as the least visited; with disease awareness pages and branded treatment pages each frequented by 6% of respondents.
    • More than a third of Americans (35%) visit government-sponsored sites first when accessing Facebook health resources.
    • 26% of respondents cite Facebook sites created by peers as the least trusted health resource. Six percent cite Facebook sites by patient groups or communities as least trusted.

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