Thursday, January 12, 2006

Internet becomes "go to" source for health information for more consumers in 2005

Internet becomes “go to” source for health information for more consumers in 2005


In 2005, 31.6 million US consumers reported using the Internet as their primary learning channel for health information, up nearly 50% since 2004. And according to Manhattan Research (MR), a total of 99 million US adults report using the Internet at least once in 2005 to look for health information.

According to the group, with the shift away from traditional health promotion and patient education to more targeted approaches promoting informed patient care, the Internet has become the “go to” source for health information for many Americans.

And the group says there is a new market segment that pharma must embrace in the years ahead – the “on demand” health consumer. Manhattan Research finds that these consumers are significantly more likely than the average health consumer to engage in a wide range of interactive activities and “embrace the ability to access and control health content on their terms.”

The group says these consumers are twice as likely as other health consumers to watch video clips online, four times as likely to subscribe to podcasts and nearly three times as likely to read blogs online. They are also twice as likely to carry a PDA, listen to satellite radio and use a digital video recorder.

And although relatively healthy, MR says this group is more likely than the average consumer to suffer from ADHD, acid reflux, allergies, anxiety or social phobias, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, migraine and/or obesity.

Search engines, the group reports, continue to be a critical gateway to content for online healthcare consumers. Ninety-five percent (95%) of consumers say they used search engines in 2005 to access health and pharmaceutical information online.

Although most report creating links directly to their favorite health sites and portals, most view search engines as “essential guides to the latest and most diverse health content and resources available online today, MR says. And the group says consumers have very high expectations about the future capabilities of searches specific to health-related information.

Some of the biggest users of the Internet for health information are a group MR calls “health influencers.” This small group of health consumers (approximately 20 million) has a significant impact on those in their “zone of influence,” including spouses, children and elderly parents.

According to MR, other health consumers are very likely to seek advice from this group of influential health consumers – who are more likely than the average consumer to rely on interactive media, including the Internet, to secure healthcare knowledge and education.

Despite some negative news on the effectiveness of DTC advertising in the wake of a rash of pharma product safety concerns, according to MR, the population of consumers sourcing the Internet to learn about pharma products in response to DTC ads has grown significantly over the past year. 2005, the group says, represents a critical point in the shifting landscape, with more than 22 million consumers actively going online in response to DTC ads.

And those “on demand” health consumers , the group reports, are significantly more likely to seek additional information online in response to advertisements, but also to request a prescription drug from their personal physicians.

“The health industry is adjusting to a world where the promises of 10 years ago, at the launch of the Internet generation, are finally becoming a market reality,” says Mark Bard, president of Manhattan Research. “The intersection of broadband, consumer-driven health, community and content, has created the perfect storm for the next generation of e-health.

“Consumers are in control,” he adds, “ and are increasingly seeking timely and efficient access to the information and tools that will help them manage their personal health and that of their friends and family.”

To learn more about the Manhattan Research Cybercitizen Health studies, visit the group on the Web at .


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