Despite all the hype about the Internet being a key source of consumer-related health information, only 16% of American adults go online to research health matters, a new survey indicates.
In fact, according to the Center for Studying Health System Change, 62% of adults--an estimated 117 million people--did not seek information about a health condition from any source other than a physician in the last 12 months.
The 72 million people who sought health data from a nonphysician source researched books and magazines, as well as online resources, and also asked friends and relatives, the survey shows. And of those people, only one in five mentioned what they found to their physician, challenging yet another notion, according to the HSC study.
The Washington-based research organization, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, analyzed data from a 2001 poll of 60,000 Americans.
Whether a patient looks up healthcare information on the Internet or elsewhere largely depends on that person's level of education, the survey report says.
The results suggest that those with at least a bachelor's degree are twice as likely to pursue health data as people who did not finish high school. Holders of postgraduate degrees are seven times more likely than high school dropouts to look up information on the Internet.
Other, smaller gaps exist based on age and economic status, according to the research.
"The study indicates significant challenges lie ahead in educating consumers about the trade-offs among the cost, quality and accessibility of care," HSC President Paul Ginsburg says in a statement.