Websites. Mobile apps. Search engines. Social media and more have made it possible for people to access health information anytime and anywhere. We wanted to know how this increased exposure to health related content affected where healthcare consumers turn for trusted information.

In our recent consumer behavior research, Realities of Healthcare Consumer Choice in America, we studied:

  • which source (online or offline) consumers turn to most for reliable health information
  • how consumers used healthcare providers’ websites
  • what role traditional media plays in their life
  • and if they recalled healthcare messages from traditional media

 

A Question of Trust

We interviewed 1,233 consumers in six markets, breaking them into three generations: Millennials, ages 25–37, Generation X, ages 38–50 and Boomers, ages 51–64. We asked each to rank their most trusted sources of health information in order:

  • Primary care physician. By an overwhelming margin our Generation X and Boomer participants said that their primary care physician was the most used, trusted and important source of their health information.
  • Friends and family. Millennials ranked friends and family slightly above their primary care physician for trusted information.
  • Health provider’s website and/or general health website. Information received from their healthcare provider’s website ranked slightly above that of a general health website for all participants.
  • News story, social media page and ads. Our participants ranked news stories, their health provider’s social media page and ads as the sources they turned to least often for information.

 

Health Provider Websites

Again, our research revealed that healthcare consumers trusted their provider’s website slightly over a general health website for reliable information. The type of services and information they accessed from their provider’s site most often included:

  • information on medical services and specialties
  • physician bios and information
  • access to their medical records
  • the ability to pay their bill
  • scheduling appointments
  • tips for staying healthy, eating right, exercising
  • communication with their physician
  • refilling a prescription
  • rankings, awards and recognition
  • signing up for a class or event
  • eVisit or video chat with a physician

 

Traditional Media

When we asked our respondents about their traditional media consumption, all of them (even Millennials) said yes they watch TV, they don’t read the newspaper, and they recall hearing or seeing an advertisement from their healthcare provider in the last year.

  • more than half watch over three hours of television daily
  • half of Boomers and 70 percent of Millennials and Generation X do not subscribe to a local newspaper
  • three-fourths recall seeing or hearing an advertisement from their local healthcare provider—of those, 56% remembered seeing a message on television

As the use of smartphones, tablets and fitness tracking devices surges it is becoming easier and easier for consumers to access information about their health. This trend has vast potential for changing the dynamics of patient engagement. As value-based reimbursement takes hold and the focus increasingly shifts to keeping people as healthy as possible, there is a tremendous opportunity to become “the preferred and trusted health information source” for the population you serve.

Online or offline, our research shows that consumers are not only seeking health information, they are remembering what they see and hear. It is of utmost importance that they remember and turn to you.