Just Looking: Consumer Use of the Internet to Manage Care

Harris Interactive

This snapshot looks at consumer use of the Internet as a source of health and ratings information. Overall, although many look for information, few take action based on what they have seen.

May 2008

A 2007 Pew Internet and American Life survey showed that 80% of consumers search the Internet for health-related information. Yet their relationship to health information on the web remains a passive one for most.

Relatively few patients tap the Internet to manage their care, including scheduling appointments with their doctors, filling prescriptions, or using ratings information to make choices about their doctors or hospitals.

The California HealthCare Foundation commissioned Harris Interactive to survey the state's consumers to gain insight into who the seekers of health information are, what kind of information they use, and what actions they take after seeing that information.

Key findings include:

  • Overall, in 2007 more Californians were using the Internet than in 2004, especially to locate information about their insurance plan.
  • In 2007, 56% of respondents went online to find specific information about medical conditions or prescription drugs. But only 13% of that group made provider appointments online in the prior year, and 12% reported filling prescriptions online.
  • Despite increased overall use of the web to access health materials, only 26% of Internet users surveyed sought out ratings information on physicians or other health care professionals.
  • Twenty-three percent of all respondents saw online hospital ratings information in 2007. However, only 1% actually made a change in their health care decisions based on the ratings.

These survey findings illustrate that although a large majority of Californians view the Internet as an important source for health-related information, most are still not taking advantage of it as a tool to manage their health.

The complete report is available under Document Downloads.