Consumers, at least Californians, do a lot of looking for health information on the Internet — but very little health management.
 
California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) has taken a snapshot of Californians’ use of the Internet in health care. The profile is presented in CHCF’s report, Just Looking: Consumer Use of the Internet to Manage Care.
 
Topline: insured, more affluent, and younger people use the Internet in health searching.
 
The most popular care-related uses on the Internet include searching for information about conditions and drugs, finding a physician, checking ratings, and looking for claims and benefit information online.
 
Some 13% of Californians are lucky enough to be making appointments online, and 12% are filling Rx’s online.
 
Methodologically speaking, Harris Interactive conducted the survey of 1,096 Californians by telephone between November 5 and December 17, 2007.
 
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Converting citizens from “search” to “health management” is a challenge. As I ponder the implications of CHCF’s findings for Californians, I am reminded of the Deloitte segmentation of the “online and onboard” consumers who are ultra-engaged in both personal online and health worlds. As in the diffusion of all technologies, we look to early adopters to pioneer, to experiment, to demonstrate the goods to those who are “Missourian in spirit” in Show-Me mode.
 
One of the barriers for some consumers in using providers’ and plans’ websites is the challenge of health literacy, and health plan literacy. You can read more about each of these significant problems with the U.S. health scene in Health Populi. If you build it, as they say, folks won’t necessarily come unless tools and information are engaging, relevant, and even fun or entertaining to interact with.
 
The drive to further adoption among citizens will be, first, among patients themselves who are learning from each other in search of “patients like me.” An early and ongoing gem of an example of this phenomenon is ACOR, the Association of Cancer Online Resources. I recently spent some time talking with Gilles Frydman, ACOR’s guru, and will be writing more about this phenomenal organization that was founded long before any of us were talking about social media and health.
 
Furthermore, as pioneers such as CHCF, the Center for Information Therapy, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Markle Foundation, and the eHealth Initiative continue to generate models and data which demonstrate the benefits and positive outcomes from online health engagement, more financial and other incentives will be aligned with consumers’ use of the Internet for health management. We’re already in the early-adopter stage. The question in these cases is always how steep with the S-curve be?
 
PS–My friend just sent me the following snippet from Prevention magazine…from the American College of Surgeons Poll, 2008:
 
How much time Americans spend researching:

Medical procedure or surgeon: 1 hour
Planning a vacation: 4 hours
PIcking out new appliances: 5 hours
Decideing to buy/lease new car: 8 hours
Thinking about a job change: 10 hours….

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