How many Americans are going online for health information?

Originally published in MedPage Today

by Cole Petrochko, MedPage Today Staff Writer

Just over half of U.S. adults under 65 used the Internet to look up health information over the course of a year, according to the first National Health Interview Survey to collect data on health information technology.

Although Americans are still concerned about security of medical information, the survey showed that 5% of consumers had used e-mail to contact healthcare providers directly.

The survey of 7,192 participants measured consumers’ use of health information technology. Specifically, CDC researchers asked when participants had used a computer to store, retrieve, share, or use healthcare information to make decisions and communicate, to conduct research, and to communicate with healthcare and prescription providers and engage in other forms of Internet dialog.

The study found 51% of adults 18 to 64 used the Internet to look up health information at some point over a 12-month period. Previous research had shown that over 60% of all adults in the U.S. had, at some point, used the Internet to search for health or medical information.

Not surprisingly, 18- to 49-year-olds were more likely than older adults to use health information technology.

Women were more likely than men to use the Internet for health information in all surveyed categories, including:

* Chatting online about health topics (2.5% of men versus 4.1% of women)
* Researching health information (43.4% versus 58%)
* Communicating with healthcare providers (4.2% versus 5.6%) or scheduling an appointment (1.8% versus 3.5%) by e-mail
* Refilling prescriptions online (5.3% versus 6.6%)

The survey was conducted by the CDC and the National Center for Health Statistics.

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