Web Watch

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The Internet has become a primary source of information for people living with disabilities and chronic diseases. According to a Pew Internet American Life study, 73% of the 34 million American adults living with chronic disease have searched the Web for info to learn more about their disease or condition. These people are referred to as e-patients in the study.

A vast majority (75%) of these “e-patients” say the information they find on the Internet affected their decision about how to treat their condition and 69% said it led them to ask new questions of their doctor or to seek a second opinion from another physician.

Another interesting finding among e-patients with chronic conditions is that they are less likely than the population in general to start their online health inquiry with a search engine. Search engines are still a popular starting point with these e-patients (57%)  but 37% go directly a health-related site. This indicates that search engines are still good starting points for info but people with chronic diseases are bookmarking sites they find valuable and starting their sessions at these sites more often than ever. More than half of these e-patients were eager to share their new health and medical knowledge with others suggesting these online Web sessions have additional value.

There's no shortage of health sites. In addition to popular health portals like WebMD, Revolution Health, Discovery Health and Everyday Health, there are new offerings like eMedTV.com, Healtheva.com and Healthcare.com, with unique offerings for people with chronic diseases. Healthcare marketers looking for more reach would be wise to consider this audience fragmentation when they execute their online advertising buys.

Dan McKillen is president of the HealthDay news service

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