Healthcare websites beat out social media as a health resource

By Healthcare IT News
10:21 AM

News sites – specifically health magazines’ websites and WebMD – still remain the most trusted online healthcare resource (68 percent), while user-generated contributions on Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs are used less frequently (54 percent), according to results from a national consumer survey conducted by Makovsky + Company.

While consumer contributions on sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor are flourishing, the poll unearthed unique online search behaviors for health. 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.

“Peer-to-peer communication establishes an emotional, ‘tell me your story’ connection; yet, when it comes to healthcare information, patients still trust the experts,” said Gil Bashe, EVP and Health Practice leader at Makovsky. “These data give Makovsky deeper insight into how patients engage online — the fast-lane for today’s healthcare communicators.”

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 percent) of Americans visiting the site. Among other findings:

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

“Patients are creating online communities to share their experiences, but they're still returning to reputable news sites and professionals for facts and information they can trust,” said Timothy Kane, EVP of the digital marketing practice at Makovsky. “Our mission is to help our clients connect to the digital discourse, and build strong relationships to those patient communities.”