When people are looking for medical information they turn to news sites – specifically health magazines’ websites and WebMD – according a new survey from Makovsky + Company. User-generated content on Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs was found to be less popular, with 54% of the respondents accessing this content versus 68% on online news sites. While this data shows a preference for health news sites, there are still a significant number of people accessing the user-generated sites.
The study, which polled 1,111 nationally representative consumers aged 18 and older, learned that patient communities’ websites were visited by 7%. This aligns with the latest Pew Internet report, The Social Life of Health Information, which found that 15% of social network site users, or 7% of adults, have gotten any health information on social networking sites.
This data makes sense: if looking for healthcare information you turn to trusted, reputable sources. If you are looking for support, encouragement or a place to express yourself, that’s when you turn to a community site. In our experience, for rare disease patients (who are unlikely to meet another person in real life with their same rare disease) these online communities play a greater role.
How Do People Use Facebook for Health?
The study found that 11% of Americans turn to Facebook for healthcare information. When using Facebook health resources, 35% visit government-sponsored sites first. Pharmaceutical company-sponsored pages rank as the least visited, with disease awareness pages and branded treatment pages each visited by 6% of respondents.
It’s a Matter of Trust
Twenty-six percent of respondents cite Facebook sites created by peers as the least trusted health resource. Interestingly, 6% cite Facebook sites by patient groups or communities as least trusted. I find this surprising as I’d think the offline trust established by these patient groups would translate to Facebook. Perhaps many of these patient groups are only virtual, so they don’t have any offline credibility to utilize.
So what does this tell us? While we should certainly explore social media, it’s also important to spread disease and brand awareness via online news sites.
(Image courtesy of Alessandro Valli on Flickr).