Most U.S. health consumers would be keen to take advantage of alternative communications for their health care encounters. Of these 6 in 10 people, 72% would like nurse helplines, 60% email, and 1 in 3 would use a private online forum for their health. However, only 1 in 10 would use some form of social media for interacting with their providers, such as Facebook or Twitter, were it available to them in February 2011.

Capstrat surveyed U.S. adults to learn about their perceptions and interactions with the health system.

At least one-half of health consumers would use electronically-accessible applications offered by the physicians, including:

  • Online scheduling, 56%
  • Online nurse advice, 55%
  • Email conferences with doctors, 52%
  • Access online medical records, 50%
  • Online bill pay, 48%.

These kinds of digital services can be useful to help health consumers better navigate the labyrinthine health system that is the hallmark of U.S. health care delivery.

Capstrat also gauged peoples’ challenging and dissatisfying views on the medical care they receive; the area of least satisfaction is managing and understanding insurance files and claims, with 29% identifying this as the #1 challenge. Other top consumers’ health care challenges are out of pocket costs that aren’t covered, cited by 1 in 5 consumers; scheduling doctors’ visits and the time it takes to do so, 18%; and, understanding diagnosis, medication or treatment information, 8%.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: There’s been a lot of buzz about this Capstrat survey since it was published on newsfeeds in late March. The headline for the survey in most technology and health trade publications has been that only 1 in 10 health consumers would use Twitter or Facebook, broadly social media, for health care interactions with doctors.

However, given that the biggest users of health care, people over 45, are newer users to social media, this is no surprise relative to interaction with doctors. There’s another larger statistic from several other surveys that says 1 in 3 U.S. health consumers who some aspect of social media for health care.

Capstrat’s data point tells us this isn’t largely for use with physician interaction – however, one-third of health consumers still derive value from using social media in health in blogs, wikis, chat rooms, social networks, and other socnets for health.

Furthermore, it’s important to note Capstrat’s findings that one-half of health consumers want electronic tools for interacting with physicians’ offices, such as online schedule and emailing. 1 in 2 would access online medical records, a very important number in light of ARRA HITECH Meaningful Use criteria that compel health providers to provide electronic copies of electronic records at their request.