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Posted on 03.03.2011

Patients Connect with Peers, Find Support Online

More Reasons to Consider Digital Marketing in Healthcare Patients increasingly use online connections to find healthcare information and to connect with peers who share a condition or disease, according to a new study “Peer-to-peer Healthcare” from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.  The implications for marketers are clear: online advertising is going to be more and more effective. Online peers substantially expand one’s network beyond just friends and family, to whom people traditionally turn for support and advice, to a broader base of information from individuals living with various rare or chronic conditions. The study finds that health professionals remain the central source of information for most Americans, but "peer-to-peer healthcare" has become a significant supplement. Pew finds 18% of Internet users report they have gone online to find others who share their health concerns. Among American Internet users living with chronic conditions that include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart or lung conditions, cancer and other chronic ailments, that number jumps to 23%.  Caregivers are also connecting with peers who share similar situations online. Health professionals remain the most frequently consulted source of information, care and support when Internet users experience a health issue at 70% of those surveyed, but those conversations still occur primarily offline. Only 5% of adults said they received information, care or support from a health professional online. The survey found that professional sources like doctors and nurses are considered more helpful in terms of information regarding a health condition itself, including diagnosis, information about prescription drug and alternative treatments and recommendations to a specialist or medical facility. But non-professionals hold more sway when people seek emotional support or practical advice for day-to-day living. Read the results of “Peer-to-peer Healthcare” and other Pew surveys that explore the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world online at www.pewinternet.org.  The Pew Internet & American Life Project is nonpartisan and takes no position on policy issues. Support is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

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