How hospitals can feed consumer appetite for online health information

With 72 percent of Internet users reporting going online in the past year to find health information, hospitals have a unique opportunity to be the source of that information, MedCity News reports.

More than three out of four people searching online for health information started with a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo!, while 13 percent went to a specialized site such as WebMD, according to research from Pew Internet: Health. They're usually seeking information about specific diseases and conditions, treatments or procedures, or health professionals, Pew found. About half of the time they're searching for information on behalf of someone else.

Meanwhile, social media is playing an increasingly large role in consumer health, MedCity News reported, citing information from PwC's Health Research Institute that 42 percent of consumers have found information on treatments and health-related consumer reviews through social media.

Additionally, 20 percent have joined some kind of online health community, the research showed. Among consumers 18 to 24 years, a whopping 90 percent said they trust health information they find through social media, MedCity News reported.

Several hospitals have launched aggressive efforts to become consumers' primary source of health information, according to the MedCity News article.

With content prepared by doctors and nurses, the Cleveland Clinic's  Health Hub is drawing more than 100,000 visits per month, according to MedCity News. Content includes health tips, videos, blogs by doctors, blogs, Q&As with experts, and live online chats.

Miami Children's Hospital created its own  YouTube channel featuring video and explanations of common pediatric heart surgeries, MedCity News reported, raising the hospital's profile and reputation while easing the minds of anxious parents.

Children's Hospital in Boston created a mobile app called  MyWay that helps families find the hospital, along with area dining, lodging and places to keep children entertained while their sibling is hospitalized, according to the article. The hospital also has several Facebook pages dedicated to specific diseases and disorders.

For more:
-see Pew's Health Online 2013 study
-here's a summary of Pew research
-read the MedCity News article