The fact that physicians access health information digitally is not big news; but, where they’re going online may surprise some health marketers who are shifting educational and promotional resources to online portals.  

4 in 5 physicians access health care professional sites, the most visited online sources for physician seeking health information online; these sites get nearly one-half of physicians’ time online, and 1/3 of total visits among all health categories, according to a report from the comScore/ImpactRx Physician Behavioral Measurement database.

However, one of the long-standing sources of information for doctors — medical journals — only reaches 30% of physicians, and doctors spend a mere 1% of their time online on medical journal sites. Among medical journals online, the #1 source is the New England Journal of Medicine with 13% reach.

The most visited site for HCP content is Medscape, with a 57% reach of physicians. Other sites attracting large shares of physicians online include general health content sites, like WebMD, attracting 21% of physicians; Association sites such as AAFP, with a 17% reach among doctors; Pharma Support, such as DoctorDirectory.com, with a 22% reach; and Government websites, such as NIH.gov, with a 31% reach. The top social media site is Sermo.com, reaching 21% of physicians.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  From social networking on Sermo to  seeking physicians for referrals on HealthGrades, doctors are well past the tipping point of going online. Now, for health marketers, the big challenge is where to find them, and how to keep them coming back for content, services, and socializing.

Look at the column in the chart titled “Share of Minutes at Health Categories.” This is quite telling. While pluralities of physicians visit most health categories, they’re not spending much time on any of them except for professional content sites like Medscape (with nearly one-half of time spent online). The rest of the online health categories, including social media, get small bits and pieces of time in between patient visits, hospital rounds, and personal lives.

For the present time, it’s the professional sites that are sticky and well-visited.

5 Comments on Physicians stick with professional health content sites online in 2010

Tom said : Guest Report 11 years ago

Hi Jane - Per Dennis' comment above, I agree. Pew found that over 40% of online health consumers are seeking information posted by other patients. Clearly people are not finding what they need in existing health resources. I'm excited to see that our community of doctors now numbers over 1,000 and they've posted 100,000 answers to patient questions....a great indicator that social media can and does belong in medicine.

Chantal said : Guest Report 11 years ago

Jane; Interesting post indeed. I wonder however if the Government category includes journal websites since Pubmed searches for journal articles take the user to the journal website to view the article or abstract. There are so many ways to get to medical journal websites and content that I would guess the number is higher than 1%.

Steve Wilkins said : Guest Report 11 years ago

Jane, Great post. I should point out that Medscape may in fact be physician's "go to site" for Medical Journals. That's what I use it for. This suggests that the categorization scheme (HCP) used by the researchers may be somewhat misleading...at least with regards to time spend reading medical journals.

Dennis (Investigator/Negotiator) at MedicalBillDog said : Guest Report 11 years ago

Hi Jane, Thanks for sharing this. From a Health 2.0 perspective, I guess it's good to know physicians are entering the 21st Century, finally. This is a great way for them to stay current with the happenings in the field, but I'm a little disturbed by how little time they're spending on the medical journal sites. From a participatory medicine perspective, however, I find this disturbing. I have to believe a truly patient-centered physician would want to be engaged with the concerns of her patients. For that, they need to be on the sites like ACOR, PatientsLikeMe, and CaringBridge. I'm also curious where the AHRQ WebM&M site falls on this chart. I really want to know my doctors (at least the hospitalists) are spending time there.

Susannah Fox said : Guest Report 11 years ago

Jane, thank you so much for writing this post! I saw this release go by and hoped you would capture it. I would love to see comScore match up this physician data with similar data about consumers. A quick search on their site turned up this 2008 release: http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2008/09/Top_Internet_Healths_Sites/language/eng-US But it's unsatisfying -- the top 5 properties are predictably WebMD, Everyday Health, Revolution Health, AOL Health, and About.com Health. What's the reach of government, association, and HCP content among consumers, for example? Maybe comScore has done this analysis and I'm not finding it -- I will send an email today requesting more info and report back if I find anything new.

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