One might think concerns over privacy and accuracy of information might prevent people from searching for and sharing medical information online. Well, one would be wrong, according to the results of a recent PwC Health Research Institute survey.
A full one-third of U.S. consumers are using YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to find medical information, research and share their symptoms, and offer opinions about doctors, treatments, drugs, and health plans. The trend isn’t new, though it does seem to be growing, with consumer confidence in the information they are finding through social contacts higher for some people than others.
Ninety percent of respondents from 18 to 24 years of age said they would trust medical information shared by others in their social media networks. This age demographic were also the most apt to share their own personal medical information online; 80 percent said they would, compared to less than half of the older (and wiser?) 45- to 65-year-old survey participants.
Health status also played a role in a person’s likelihood to engage, trust, and share about health using social media. Those in better health were more likely to trust and share, though their less healthy counterparts were more engaged.
Those who are updating social contacts on their experiences with health care issues are more likely to share positive experiences than negative, though the difference is slight.
Of those searching for information, 41 percent are using it to make decisions about which doctors or hospitals to use. Thirty-four percent said the information they find in social networks affects their decision whether or not to take a specific medication.
"The power of social media for health organizations is in listening and engaging with consumers on their terms. Social media has created a new customer service access point where consumers expect an immediate response," Kelly Barnes, U.S. Health Industries leader for PwC, said in a statement. "Health organizations have an opportunity to use social media as a way to better listen, participate in discussions, and engage with consumers in ways that extend their interaction beyond a clinical encounter."
While a 2010 study condemned the social media landscape as the “Wild West” when it comes to health and medical information, the tide certainly seems to be changing. Do you trust medical information you read in social networks, or elsewhere online? Let us know in a comment!