Do Patients Search for Online Health Information?

There are some common misconceptions surrounding how many and what types of people search for online health information, particularly around the ages of patients likely to turn to the internet for health information, so let’s take a look at the statistics. 83% of adult internet users search online for health information.

That’s 8 out of 10. If you haven’t searched for health information online, then you’re in the minority. But that’s only for young people right? Let’s break down the percentage of internet users who have searched for health information online by age.

18 – 29: 97%
30 – 49: 96%
50 – 64: 80%
65+: 36%

The most interesting observation here is in the 50 to 64 age group. 8 out of 10 internet users aged 50 to 64 have searched for health information online. That number is considerably less for the aged 65 or older demographic and is close to 100% for internet users aged 18 to 49. Also, 47% of Australians aged 50-64 and 26% aged 65+ use social networking sites like Facebook.

They are pretty staggering statistics for anyone advertising health information to patients aged 18 to 64. This makes sense when you consider that internet penetration is higher than ever, and people turn to the internet for their news and information more than newspaper and radio. Those who search for health information online also tend to be better educated and have a higher annual household income.

This is also good to know for the purposes of recruiting for research. Although, if you’re still apprehensive about going this route, or even how you might go about contacting potential patients online, you can get a recruitment plan from us at no charge. Then, it’s up to you whether you implement this yourself or have the experts do it.

What kind of health information are people looking for?

The most commonly searched for information is for specific diseases and medical problems.

  • 66% have looked online for information about a specific disease or medical problem
  • 55% have looked online for information about a certain medical treatment or procedure
  • 47% have looked online for information about doctors or other health professionals
  • 45% have looked online for information about prescription or over-the-counter medications
  • 35% have looked online for information about alternative treatments or medicines
  • 20% have looked online for information about experimental treatments or medicines

Only 20% of internet users have looked online for information about experimental treatments or medicines, compared with 83% looking for any type of health information. Is 20% still a significant number? In Australia, that’s approximately 3.5 million people. But does percentage of internet users searching for experimental treatments and medicines vary across age groups?

Percentage of internet users that have looked online for information about experimental treatments or medicines:

18-29: 22%
30-49: 21%
50-64: 21%
65+: 10%

Again, people aged 18 to 64 are more likely to search for experimental treatment and medicine information online than those aged 65+. How do we target these 3.5 million Australians? Let’s take a look at another statistic.

95% of internet users who searched for experimental treatment and medicine information online also searched for information about alternative treatments or prescription drugs. The conclusion to draw here is that to recruit patients seeking information about experimental treatments and medicines, we can advertise to them while they are searching for other related health information online.

Conclusion

There are many trial specific factors to consider when deciding where to advertise to recruit patients, but if you’re recruiting patients aged 18 to 64 you should be evaluating whether online advertising is appropriate for your trial. Trialfacts has many years experience in successfully recruiting patients for clinical trials using HREC approved online advertising campaigns. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.

Data Source

Unless otherwise linked to, all data from this article comes from The Social Life of Health Information report. The reports’ data comes from a survey of 2,253 adults in the United States in 2008. Australia has higher internet penetration than the United States.

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