Increases in healthcare costs and shift in demographics drive consumers online to find health info
Seeking health info online has reached saturation among internet users. According to a January 2013 study from Kantar Media, 87% of US internet users looked online for health and wellness research in 2012; there are some key trends driving consumers to the web for this information.
An aging population and shifting demographics are playing a major role in uptake of online health seeking. Boomers are turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day, according to AARP. Unlike the “greatest generation” who used the old patient model, boomers are familiar with technology and inclined to research their health options.
Another factor driving people online to research health info is the increased cost of healthcare. Health insurance plans with high deductibles have led to a decline in patients visiting their physician and an increase in patients putting off medical treatments. In an NPR poll last year, three out of four people who were sick said that cost was a “very serious” problem and nearly half said they felt burdened by what they had to pay out of pocket for care.
A Gallup poll released in Decemeber 2012 confirmed these findings, with three out of 10 consumers saying they had put off medical treatment due to cost within the last 12 months. Although between 2007 to 2012 that percentage has stayed approximately the same, the general trend since 2004 is a rising number of people who put off medical care.
Since cost is an important issue for users of healthcare websites, many are now seeking resources that can help them estimate how much their medical expenses will cost. A February 2012 Deloitte survey found that 53% of health seekers said they would use a healthcare site that offered them a tool to tell them how much a health plan would pay for certain treatments or sevices. Patients also expressed a strong interest in seeing quality rankings and satisfaction ratings for specific doctors and hospitals.