Research: Searching for online health information

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: There is still a lot of frustration in the search for online health information among all demographic segments.  While pharma sites were seen as adding some value the majority of users still felt the need to search deeper to get both more information and views of current treatment options available.

It’s always fun to spend a full day in research listening to people talk about their experiences in searching for online health information.  The focus groups started at 10AM and went through 9PM and encompassed all demographic segments. (n=54)



1ne: The search for health information does start with Google, but most people don’t trust/ignore top of the page paid placement.

2wo: Depending on the seriousness of the health condition everyone said they usually go to multiple websites.  Top site mentioned was WebMD.

3hree: When probed why they go to so many different health websites top answers were; I want to know more before going to my doctor, information was hard to understand, I want to hear what others are saying about the treatment, and how expensive is it?


4our: Not one person in the research said that any pharma website, alone, was enough to get them to request that brand.  Probing revealed a variety of issues, including trust, information was too hard to understand, website was too “medical” (i.e. didn’t focus on living with/quality of life issues.

5ive: During the research a sample of a community forum was presented where users could ask other users about their experiences in living with chronic conditions or taking certain medications.  It rated very high, but users did not want to divulge any personal information in posting questions or answers to questions.  When told about FDA requirements of having these communities on pharma websites (posts pre-cleared) they thought this would be a positive because it meant a better quality of information.

6ix: Boomers are very active online in searching for and using online health information, but still trust their doctor to make the final treatment decision.  Millennials on the other hand, believe online health information more than their doctors and are more likely to act on what they find.


7even: Women will spend 3X as much time searching for online health information and want emotional support, whereas men want “just the facts”.

Overall, we learned a lot and it was interesting to listen to online health users talk about their experiences.  Everyone felt “they had to” go online to search for health information because “today’s health care is impersonal”.

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