Online behavior varies by condition type, stage: study

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Consumers looking for diabetes information online respond to different tools and website functionality than, say, people looking for information on cancer or heart disease, a new study found.

With diabetes, websites that connect users to a larger community of people with that disease tend to foster repeat visits, as do websites with “useful tools,” according to a statement on the study. Consumers looking for information on cardiovascular or respiratory disease, however, prefer sites that provide easy access to medical professionals.

Also, consumers visit different types of websites depending on the state of their condition; for patients recently diagnosed, in recovery or living with an ongoing condition, websites dedicated to a particular condition are preferred over search engine researching, the study said.

In a gender comparison, the report found that men and women conduct online health research differently; almost 84% of the women surveyed researched on behalf of someone else, while 75% of men researched on behalf of someone else.

Other findings include:
  • The “typical” health researcher overall is 50 years old, and female;
  • 71% of health researchers online are looking for general knowledge about a condition; research symptoms is the second biggest reason for going online, at 59%;
  • 56% of respondents said a health care professional recommendation makes a health website trustworthy; 46% said a site is trustworthy if it includes academic articles or scientific research; and
  • 81% of recently diagnosed patients consult an HCP for health information, while 77% go online first for health info.
The MARS 2010 Online Behavior Study was conducted by Kantar Media, and surveyed over 5,000 respondents during the second quarter of this year, according to a statement.

“The internet has become the source people turn to for health information,” says Jayne Krahn, VP, consumer health and custom research, Kantar Media. “While much is known about website visitation and patterns, less is known about the why and when in terms of ailment conditions and stages.”
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