Online Health Research Eclipsing Patient-Doctor Conversations

Third annual survey shows average U.S. consumer visits the doctor three times every year; spends nearly 52 hours searching health information online

Makovsky to host webinar at 2:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Sept. 10 to review survey data and trends in advocacy and communications

NEW YORK--()--Online health information, including both medical resources and patient community connections, continues to play an important role in patient education and self-care. Results from a national consumer survey conducted by Makovsky Health and Kelton show the average U.S. consumer spends nearly 52 hours looking for health information on the internet annually, and visits the doctor three times. Further, physicians remain a key influencer sparking online health research; Americans are most likely to visit a pharma-sponsored website after receiving a diagnosis from their physician (51%).

These findings underscore the importance of accuracy and accessibility of online health information as a springboard for patient-physician dialogue and peer support.

A free webinar in partnership with the Business Development Institute discussing survey results and their implications for patient advocacy and education efforts will be held on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Among the top trends in online health searches, the third annual Makovsky Health survey also revealed the following consumer preferences:

  • WebMD is the most frequented online source for healthcare information (53%)
  • Almost a fourth of consumers (24%) use at least one or a combination of social media channels – including YouTube video channels, Facebook sites, blogs, and Twitter feeds with links to other resources – to seek healthcare information
  • The majority of Americans (83%) are still using a personal computer for health searches – not a tablet or smartphone

“The survey results demonstrate that even as consumers research health-related information online, they seek trusted resources for that information – their physician, or a fellow patient,” said Gil Bashe, Executive Vice President and Practice Director, Makovsky Health. “Healthcare providers and patient advocates serve an increasingly key role in guiding consumers to credible information and community support that can benefit their care. Our job as communicators remains connecting patients in need with the information and resources that advance their well-being.”

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and healthcare reform impacting patient care in coming months, interestingly, consumers are not seeking information about ACA online. Survey data show 33 percent of consumers have spent two hours or less researching ACA information in the past year, with 32 percent of respondents stating they have never researched healthcare reform.

“Though it may seem counterintuitive, the current lack of Affordable Care Act research is logical given human behavior – just look at how many people file their taxes a week before the deadline,” said Tom Bernthal, CEO, Kelton. “These information-seeking patterns could suggest an increased pressure for healthcare companies to get it right during this critical countdown to the launch of the health insurance marketplace. The test of success for these companies will be the ability to simplify complex information for the millions of insurance-naïve, confused and anxious consumers entering the changing system.”

Fielded to 1,067 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and older, the Makovsky-Kelton survey investigated consumers’ overall engagement with online healthcare information, including device and source preferences, frequency and influencers. For more information please visit:

The results will be presented during a free webinar on Tuesday, September 10, 2013, from 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. ET. This seminar will feature presentations from Gil Bashe, Executive Vice President and Practice Director, Makovsky Health and David Farber, Partner, King & Spalding. For more information, please visit:

Healthcare Information Searches: The How, Where and Why

When it comes to health searches online, the vast majority of Americans are still most likely to use a personal computer (83%) versus a tablet or smartphone (11% and 6%, respectively). Data show tablets are gaining traction, with a 7% increase from 2012, while smartphone usage stayed stagnant.

WebMD remains the most accessed online resource for health information (53%), followed by Wikipedia (22%), health magazine websites (19%) and advocacy group websites (16%). Social media channels continued to rank relatively low, with YouTube being used by 12% of people searching for healthcare information online and Facebook and blogs both visited by 10% of Americans. However, social media channels – including YouTube, Facebook, blogs and Twitter feeds – are visited by almost a fourth of consumers (24%), who use at least one or a combination of these platforms to seek healthcare information.

With respect to healthcare reform research, the majority of respondents (65%) have spent less than an hour or no time at all searching over the past year. On the other end of the spectrum, 15% of Americans have spent more than six hours researching healthcare reform, and 10% have logged between one and two hours of research.

Top Traffic Drivers to Pharmaceutical Websites

Consistent with 2012 survey findings, pharma websites continued to rank low in terms of traffic, with 9% of Americans visiting them for health information. When asked about motivating drivers to visit a pharma company’s disease-state or drug website for information, the key influencers were a physician recommendation (42%) and news articles (33%). Other drivers of pharma-sponsored website traffic included:

  • Recommendation from a family member, friend or colleague (30%)
  • TV ad (25%)
  • Drug discount (14%)
  • Magazine ad (13%)
  • Web, digital, radio or newspaper ad (11%, 11%, 9% and 9%, respectively)
  • Social media ad (6%)

The majority of Americans would visit pharma-sponsored websites after receiving a diagnosis (51%). In contrast, 23% would access this resource before filling a prescription and 16% after first experiencing symptoms. Of note, year-over-year survey results showed a 10% decrease in the likelihood that Americans would visit a pharma-sponsored website after experiencing symptoms (from 26% in 2012 to 16% in 2013).

About Makovsky Health

Makovsky Health is leading healthcare communications in its ongoing mission to improve the lives of patients served by biotech, pharmaceutical, wellness and device manufacturing companies. Honored as the 2012 Public Relations Agency of the Year, Makovsky campaigns have been recognized as the “Best in Healthcare,” “Best Education/Public Service Campaign” and “Best of the Best.” To learn more about the agency, please visit

About Kelton

Kelton is a research, strategy and design consultancy that works with many of the world's largest and most recognizable brands to help them better understand and connect with consumers. Kelton provides highly customized qualitative, quantitative, innovation and design research for a wide variety of companies across multiple sectors. For more information, please see


Makovsky Health
Kasey Rankin, 212-508-9630
Mobile: 828-442-6253

Release Summary

Online Health Research Eclipsing Patient-Doctor Conversations: Third annual survey of consumer health information search behavior by Makovsky Health and Kelton & Webinar September 10, 2013 at 2 pm ET


Makovsky Health
Kasey Rankin, 212-508-9630
Mobile: 828-442-6253