In 2010, researching health information online is a mainstream activity among U.S. consumers, with over two-thirds of adults doing so. In earlier days of eHealth, online health info-seeking was generally sporadic, usually in response to a new symptom or health concern. But access to broadband has dramatically increased and now more consumers rely on the Internet for health-related resources at multiple points throughout the treatment continuum, including during post-diagnosis and condition management stages. Adoption of online pharmaceutical content in particular has grown at a fast clip over recent years. Over 100 million U.S. adults now use the Internet to research prescription drug information - a population that has been boosted by an increase in the share of older consumers using the Internet, a growing number of Americans taking one or more prescription medications, and DTC advertising driving people online.
While online health and pharma information-seeking has already been adopted by a critical mass of consumers, participation in more advanced health IT activities is far less common. The share of consumers using online tools and services to increase their adherence to medication or manage their conditions is still relatively low. While consumer interest in using PHRs and communicating with their physicians online is very high, only a small fraction of U.S. adults have actually adopted these activities. The share of physicians communicating with at least one of their patients via email, instant messaging, or secure online messaging services has been gradually increasing over the past seven years to about 2 in 5 physicians in 2010. But significant participation has been hindered by physician concern about liability and questions about benefit to practice efficiency, as well a lack of communication around the value proposition for both physicians and patients. Similarly, personal health record (PHR) adoption will likely remain stunted in the absence of major physician participation and education and awareness-building initiatives. Although the current administration has put a stronger focus on health IT, the majority of Americans are likely not highly motivated to maintain a PHR unless faced with a serious illness.
Consumers who take an active role in their healthcare are starting to make an impact on physicians. Virtually all U.S. physicians report that at least some of their patients discuss health information they found on the Internet during their appointments, though the average share of physicians’ patient bases doing this is still relatively low. More than half of physicians believe this research leads to a better-informed patient and over one-third feels that it leads to better treatment decisions.
Source: Manhattan Research, Taking the Pulse® v10.0 (2010), Cybercitizen Health® v9.0 (2009)