Searching for healthcare information is now the third most common reason for going online, just behind checking email and using search engines, according to a poll conducted last August and September by the Pew Internet Project and the California HealthCare Foundation. Eighty percent of those surveyed who have web access said they looked up healthcare facts online.
Among those most likely to visit health-related websites are caregivers, women, whites, younger adults and adults with some college education, the survey found. The groups least likely to look online for health information included African Americans, Latinos, the disabled, older adults, adults with only a high school education, and those living in a household with an annual income of under $30,000. This disparity indicates that the digital divide is still a problem for many of those who need healthcare information the most.
As one would expect, the majority of people online were looking for data on specific conditions, treatments or procedures. In addition, 44 percent sought information on doctors or other health professionals; 36 percent were interested in data on hospitals or other medical facilities; and 33 percent wanted information on health insurance, including private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.
Forty-eight percent of respondents said they performed searches for someone else.