Monday, October 30, 2006

Health information you can rely on

The Pew Internet Project just released a study concerning the way consumers search for health information on the Internet. Even more important, is the surprising data point stating that although health topics are one of the most popular searches by US users, only 15 % of consumers who search for health information "always" check the source of the information that they find.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded by clicking here.

Some other interesting answers given by those surveyed concerning their experience searching health topics on the Net:
  • 35% said that the information affected their decision about seeing a doctor.
  • 74% said that they felt reassured that they could make appropriate health care decisions.
  • 51% said that they were eager to share their new health or medical knowledge with others.
The last point about sharing information is key because this is where web 2.0 technologies (upon which today's Internet is built) can be most effective. What's interesting about all of this is that this information lends credence to the thesis that web 2.0 technologies have a place within a new, people centered vision for health care.

The astonishing part is that users don't really check the source (or date) of the information that they're looking at. Nevertheless, I've gotta believe that, given options, users will value information provided by alternate sources. Specifically, wouldn't it be great to get different points of views on specific health conditions which aren't all based on purely scientific or "traditional" medical points of view? Even more, how about if users could get some type of "evidence-based" research to back it up?

I mention these because they are all possible using current web 2.0 techniques. I really wonder whether there is any interest in applying these technologies to such a problem when so few people seem to investigate the sources of the information they find. If you can, please let me know your opinion.

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