According to Manhattan Research, which surveyed 5,210 adults who use the Internet as a health resource, 54% of respondents said they did online research to decide what services they might need and who they would see. Various surveys have said that roughly 75% of American adults search for health information online.
Manhattan Research said 79% of patients diagnosed with a chronic disease in the previous three months, and already active online, used the Internet to influence their care decisions compared with 53% who were diagnosed a year earlier.
The survey did not ask patients what sites they visit to find information, but other surveys have found that the most popular online place for people to start health-related information gathering is a search engine, Malloy said. Search engines also are good places for physicians to start when they want to see if their online presence needs help, said Howard Luks, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Hawthorne, N.Y., who consults on digital media and medicine issues.
Analysts said the number of patients using the Internet to pick their physicians and treatments could go up significantly when the insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014. The ACA is expected to add 30 million to the insured rolls starting in 2014, and many of those patients will be looking for a primary care doctor for the first time.