Friday, August 22, 2008

Updated study finds 56% of Americans seek health information - up from 38%

A tremendous jump in health information seeking between 2001 and 2007 is reported in a new report by the Study for Seeking Health System Change. Full content of the study's findings is available online. Looking at the graph above, I find it interesting that overall, people are reporting they use media sources, peers, and the internet at about the same rate to learn more about health issues - a very significant change in the way we look for health information.
The most striking finding on the impact of health information is that four of five information seekers found information that helped them to better understand how to treat an illness or condition. This positive impact on consumers’ health knowledge was consistently high across demographic subgroups (HSC Tracking Report No. 20).
The authors conclude that increased health information seeking by consumers may be a result of the awareness that physicians have less time, and call for health policy organizations to find ways to make good health information easier to find.

I disagree somewhat with the recommendation: There is fantastic information available now. To begin with, serves as a huge portal source to many, many other top-quality health association sites. Where I find gaps is in the consumer awareness of resources, and perhaps in the complexity of the resources. I have seldom encountered a consumer who is familiar with MedlinePlus, and when I introduce it, they are usually astounded and impressed (and perhaps, a bit intimidated) by the sheer volume of information. If I were Health Information Czar :) I'd launch a major publicity campaign on behalf of MedlinePlus, with TV and radio spots, with personal narratives, individual accounts of how people found information through that site that empowered them as partners in their own healthcare. Got Healthinfo?

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