Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Adults Living With Chronic Diseases Less Likely to Be Online – Yet More Likely to Use Social Media

Written by Michael Spitz, Senior Digital Strategy, Ignite Health

Survey data from the Pew Internet Project and the California HealthCare Foundation have just become available, confirming an Internet access and online health information gap exists for adults living with chronic diseases, reflective of overall trends in public health and technology adoption.

But what is surprising from the data is that when other demographic factors are held constant, having a chronic disease significantly increases an internet user’s likelihood to participate in social media, such as blogging or contributing to an online discussion that helps people with personal issues or health problems.

Summary of Results

The data reveals that, despite disproportionately less access to the Internet, more than half of e-patients living with chronic disease consume user-generated health information, and one in five e-patients have created their own online health content.

Specifically, among e-patients living with chronic disease:

37% have read someone else's commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website, or blog

25% have consulted rankings or reviews online of hospitals or other medical facilities

25% have consulted rankings or reviews online of doctors or other providers

22% have signed up to receive updates about health or medical issues

13% have listened to a podcast about health or medical issues

In addition, 16% of e-patients living with chronic disease say their most recent inquiry had a major impact on their health care. Of these who say their most recent query had an impact:

Two-thirds say the information found online affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition

Half say it changed the way they cope with a chronic condition or manage pain

Half say it changed their overall approach to maintaining their health or the health of someone they help take care of

Half say it lead them to ask a doctor new questions, or to get a second opinion from another doctor

Half say it changed the way they think about diet, exercise, or stress management

One-third say it affected a decision about whether to see a doctor

Implications for ePharma Marketing

This survey reveals that having a chronic disease increases the probability that an internet user will share what they know about their condition and learn from their peers. The opportunities for healthcare communications experts are therefore clear:

  1. Monitor the social media “buzz” of your chronic disease target audiences to better understand their needs and communication behaviors
  2. Bring your brand message and communications to where these online conversations are already taking place
  3. Work with your brand teams and their regulatory experts to create social media guidance enabling direct participation
buzz this

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