Physical Symptoms No. 1 Usage Driver for Health Sites

What drives consumers to use health-oriented Web sites?

More than half (55%) of online health site users recently surveyed by Woburn, Mass.-based lead-generation company Prospectiv said that they're primarily seeking information about symptoms relating to a specific ailment or condition; 27% said they're looking for tips on managing ailments and health conditions; and 18% said that they're researching specific drug treatments for their own specific ailments.

The survey, conducted online with a random sample of 1,100 consumers, was a follow-up to research conducted in July.

The results reconfirmed that a majority of consumers (79%) use the Web as a health information resource, and that the types of sites used most are general health-focused sites (50%) and specific ailment-focused sites (35%). Just 13% of consumers said they rely most on branded pharmaceutical company sites. (In the earlier study, 54% favored general health sites, 37% specific ailment sites and 4% branded sites.)



This time, consumers who do not use branded sites were asked why. Most (57%) said they were unaware of such sites, although nearly a third (31%) said that they lack trust in the sites.

Among those who do rely most on branded sites, 65% said it's because the sites are very informative, 28% said that the sites provide the most accurate information on available drug treatment, and 7% said the company's branded newsletters are very informative.

Just 2% of people who use the Web for health information said that they rely most heavily on online communities for this purpose, and just 12% reported belonging to online communities. However, 68% said that they would register for an e-newsletter to learn more about drug treatments or how to treat a specific ailment, and 60% said that they would use interactive resources (e-mail groups, forums and communities) to share ailment and drug information with others if more of these resources were available.

"Again, we found that when it comes to branded sites, lack of awareness, rather than mistrust, is the dominant issue," says Prospective president/CEO Jere Doyle. He adds that it's also clear that brands need to leverage the opportunities in buying search words relating to specific ailments and conditions, and in registering people for e-newsletters that address their illnesses.

What about the 21% of respondents who don't use the Net at all for finding heath information? Nearly half (47%) said that they don't know how to find the right sites to help them, 41% said they had thus far not needed to find such information, and 12% said they don't feel comfortable using the Web to research sensitive personal information.

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