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Infographic: How Patients Use Online Research

Health Insurance Companies Process 1 in 5 Claims Wrong

Trust and Ease of Use are Key

If you think patients aren’t researching their healthcare options online, think again.

A new study shows just how much patients are relying on the Internet when making healthcare decisions. The sixth annual Makovsky/Kelton “Pulse of Online Search” Survey interviewed 1,035 Americans and found that 61 percent look to the web first when trying to identify symptoms of a potential disease or condition.

Let’s look at more findings from the survey.

What Patients Search For

The survey looked at several factors, including patient online search preferences and who they turn to for healthcare guidance.

Patients go online at various points in their healthcare journey. The study found that:

  • 60 percent conduct research prior to a doctor’s appointment
  • 62 percent research a treatment prescribed by a doctor
  • 50 percent explore alternative or holistic solutions

When respondents were asked to identify the first thing they would search for if they had just developed a medical condition, 32 percent said they would search for symptoms. Twenty-nine percent said treatment options would be at the top of their list.

Of those who would look for treatment options first, 68 percent noted it was because they wanted to decide on the best treatment. More than half of the respondents wanted to find out if there was a cure for their disease or condition.

Trust and Ease of Use Matter

Whether patients are in the doctor’s office or online, trusted relationships and easily accessible information matter.

When patients were asked how much they would trust certain sources in regards to medication information, they identified trusting the following either “a good amount” or “completely:”

  • Doctor – 95 percent
  • Pharmacist – 85 percent
  • An article or website like WebMD, Wikipedia, or AARP – 60 percent
  • A family member, friend, or contact – 56 percent
  • A peer recommendation online (via Facebook, YouTube, message board) – 24 percent

In terms of the most visited website, WebMD ranked the highest at 53 percent. As far as why patients opted to visit WebMD for healthcare information, the responses included:

  • 39 percent said it was because the site was trustworthy
  • 56 percent said it was easy to use
  • 27 percent said it was the first web link that populated during an online search

And with the growing popularity of blogs, patients are looking there for information too. Forty-five percent of patients who read healthcare-related blogs do so because they are easy to use. Thirty-nine percent said blogs contain the information they need to know.

The survey covers much more about patients’ online search habits. You can see it in its entirety here. Below is an infographic that summarizes the findings nicely as well.

Did these survey results surprise you? Have you seen an increase in patients performing online research? Please tell me in the comments below!


is a 20 year veteran of healthcare having managed medical practices. He advises medical practices, physicians and practice administrators on how to run their practice and manage their medical billing and revenue cycle management. Manny speaks, blogs and makes videos at www.CaptureBilling.com, a blog that is tops in the medical billing and coding field. READ MORE

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