News Feature | September 19, 2013

WebMD Is Stealing Your Patients

Source: Health IT Outcomes
Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

Survey says patients spend 52 hours a year searching health information online, underscoring the importance of accuracy and accessibility of online health information as a springboard for patient-physician dialogue

A survey from Makovsky Health and Kelton revealed the average American visits the doctor three times a year but spends nearly 52 hours searching health information online. More than 1,000 individuals took part in the survey, which also found the following consumer preferences:

  • WebMD is the most frequented online source for healthcare information (53 percent)
  • Almost a fourth of consumers (24 percent) use at least one or a combination of social media channels - including YouTube video channels, Facebook sites, blogs, and Twitter feeds with links to other resources  - to seek healthcare information
  • The majority of Americans (83 percent) are still using a personal computer for health searches - not a tablet or smartphone

“The survey results demonstrate that even as consumers research health-related information online, they seek trusted resources for that information – their physician, or a fellow patient,” said Gil Bashe, Executive Vice President and Practice Director, Makovsky Health. “Healthcare providers and patient advocates serve an increasingly key role in guiding consumers to credible information and community support that can benefit their care. Our job as communicators remains connecting patients in need with the information and resources that advance their well-being.”

Interestingly, the Accountable Care Act is rarely researched by patients; the survey found 33 percent had spent less than an hour researching the ACA and 32 percent had never researched healthcare reform. “These information-seeking patterns could suggest an increased pressure for healthcare companies to get it right during this critical countdown to the launch of the health insurance marketplace. The test of success for these companies will be the ability to simplify complex information for the millions of insurance-naïve, confused and anxious consumers entering the changing system,” said Tom Bernthal, CEO, Kelton.

Drug Information Online quotes  Lindsey Thompson, group VP, Makovsky Health, as saying “This is the third year we’ve been doing this survey. As an industry, we’re in a really exciting time, with consumers having increased access to information and technology bringing patients and physicians more closely connected beyond the point-of-care.  The real motivating factor for this survey is to better serve our clients and inform our engagement strategies to what will have the most impact and educational influence.”

Health economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, summing up the survey’s findings her Health Populi blog writes, “It’s a matter of scale and reach: with patients already in (do it yourself) health mode - that is, health care self-service - doctors can help patients optimize self-care through extending their touch and reach through technology platforms and tools that patients are already using - apart from their physicians.”

Click HERE for the Makovsky Health Infographic