Eight out of every 10 people that use the Internet go online for health information and most of these people start with a search engine. This represents 113 million adults in the US that look for health information online according to the Pew/Internet survey released at the end of October.
Women now outnumber men when it comes to health information online. Women have traditionally been the healthcare gatekeepers in the family and the Pew study shows that 82% have searched online for health information versus 77% of men.

Approximately two out of every three health searchers online look for information about a specific disease or condition and about 49% search the web for information about diet, nutrition, vitamins and supplements. This trend for health and wellness is also evident by the increasing number of people (44%) who look online for information about exercise and fitness.

For 66% of online health seekers, a search engine is the starting point while 27% go directly to one of their favorite health-related Web sites. These sessions seem to enhance doctor-patient dialogue as 54% of the respondents said the information they found led them to ask their doctor questions or to get another opinion.

Healthcare marketers may also be interested in a study conducted by DoubleClick, a provider of digital marketing technology services. The study confirmed a growing trend called “view through” which follows visitors after they are exposed to a banner or link to see if any action is taken. With regard to online ads, respondents were twice as likely to notice an ad—and not click on it—then visit the advertised site later (61%) as they were to click on the banner ad (30%). For marketers that only factor in click-through rates, this research suggests the impact of Web advertising may be far greater than previously thought.

Dan McKillen is president of the HealthDay news service