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Here it is: my 2010-11 yearbook! Will you sign it?

That’s how I feel about this latest report from the Pew Internet Project and the California HealthCare Foundation: “The Social Life of Health Information, 2011.”  It contains all the insights we’ve gathered over the last year on mobile health, the health information divide, and peer-to-peer healthcare. It also contains updates on social media use in health and a few new activities. If you’re going to read just one of our reports, this is the one.

Here are some new data points:

–       1 in 4 internet users have watched an online video about health.

–       1 in 4 internet users have tracked their weight, diet, exercise routine or other health indicator online.

–       1 in 4 internet users have consulted online reviews of drugs or medical treatments (but very few post such reviews).

The finding that goes against what I might call conventional rumor is that Facebook is NOT a significant source of health information.

Yes, social network sites like Facebook and MySpace have gained ground in the internet population over the past two years. Sixty-two percent of internet users now say they use such sites, compared with 35% of internet users in 2008. However, the percentage of adults who turn to these sites for health information remains low. Just 15% of social network site users, or 7% of adults, say they use the sites to get health information. This is up only slightly from 2008, when 11% of social network site users reported getting health information on such sites.

For the most part, the trends are stable for all of the questions we asked in the 2008 and 2010 surveys – health topics, hospital review sites, doctor review sites, consumption & creation of user-generated content related to health.

The major difference is how we wrote up the findings. In the 2009 report, we emphasized the “e-patient” or “online health seeker” population – internet users who go online for health information. After talking with policymakers and industry leaders about how internet use fits in to the overall picture of health care in the U.S., we decided to emphasize the “internet user” population and, in some cases, the U.S. adult population. In that way, readers can compare our results to other studies’ results which focus on internet users and/or U.S. adults. The full topline at the back of the current report shows both the “online health seeker” and the “internet user” results so people can easily compare the ’08 and ’10 surveys.

If you have only a few minutes, please read the summary of findings.

If you have a half-hour or so, please read the full report.

Then come back here and let me know what you think! I’m eager to discuss the findings.


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