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Searching for health info is a growing online activity.

Searching for health information on the Internet has become the third most popular Internet activity, just behind using e-mail and researching products and services, according to Pew Internet & American Life. And a majority of Americans lacking health-care coverage also believe it is a tool they would turn to for assistance.

A recent survey conducted by the not-for-profit health-care organization Kaiser Permanente found that 62% of Americans lacking health-care coverage would turn to the Internet for help. Among that population, 18% said they would most prefer the Web for referrals to relevant community health services, while 16% would use the Internet to both research and treat non urgent conditions. Another 14.5% would log online to search for reliable, free online sources of medical information, and nearly 13% would use the Net to research but not treat routine maladies.

The nationwide survey of 1,000 Americans, conducted in December 2003 by market research firm Synovate for Kaiser Permanente, also surveyed respondents' concerns about health conditions, and found that cancer (31.5%) was the top concern, followed by heart disease (19%), being overweight (15.2%) and diabetes (15%).

"We're facing a crisis today--too many Americans lack adequate health insurance, or any health insurance at all, whether or not they're currently employed," Dr. Kate Christensen, medical director, Kaiser Permanente Internet Services Group, said in a statement." Our survey reveals a population open to and in need of support in matters of health care and health insurance. We're encouraged that consumers across the country are increasingly turning to the Internet for their information needs, and are going well beyond--exploring treatment options, community resources and professional services, all through the online medium." Over time, the Internet population will grow even more sophisticated in matters of health, and that only can help address the ongoing crisis, she added.

The survey also looked at geographical breakdowns and found that consumers in the Western United States are more likely to turn to the Internet than those in other regions. Web users aged 18 to 24 are the most likely to search for health information online. In addition, the survey found that 66% of nonwhites are more likely to use the Internet for health matters, while only 61% of whites reported usage.

Internet-related health searches continue to grow. Hitwise, an Internet traffic analysis firm, said that since January 2003, U.S. visits to health Web sites have grown by 14%. Health insurance is the seventh most popular type of medical-related online search, preceded by specific disease or medical problem; certain medical treatment or procedure; diet, nutrition, vitamins or nutritional supplements information; exercise or fitness information; prescription or over-the-counter drugs; and alternative treatments or medicines.

Harris Interactive reports that 90% of Internet users want to be able to e-mail their doctor online and 37% would be willing to pay for the services. Fifty-five percent say that having the option of communicating electronically with their doctor in their health plan would influence their choice of plans, while 12% said they would be influenced "a great deal."
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Title Annotation:Technology Notes
Author:Chordas, Lori
Publication:Best's Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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