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Know Your Source: Online Health Information Can Empower or Mislead

81% of Americans Go Online for Health Information; Only 25% of People Verify Source Reliability

BOSTON, Mass. - January 11, 2011 - The New Year brings new resolutions and many Americans will turn to the Internet seeking health information to set and achieve their 2011 goals. But can that information be trusted? According to new research released today by Health Dialog, and commissioned by parent-company Bupa, 81% of Americans go online for health information, 72% look online for information about medicines, and 58% have looked for information online to make a self-diagnosis. Yet, surprisingly, only one in four people say they check the source of their online advice (1). The survey was conducted as part of Bupa Health Pulse 2010, a global study of health attitudes and behaviors of over 12,000 individuals across 12 countries.

With smart phones and tablets set to outsell personal computers by 2012 (2), a report from the London School of Economics (LSE) published today in conjunction with the survey reveals that there will be both more health information online and more ways to access it than ever before. (3) The report also highlights the benefits and challenges of accessing health-related information online.

"Increased and easier access to online health information creates a double-edged sword," said Jan Maurer, MD, Vice President and Medical Director, Health Dialog. "We believe that research-based, scientifically proven information needs to be at the core of all healthcare decisions. If people don't check the reliability of their online sources, they may potentially take risks with inappropriate tests and treatments, waste money, or dismiss serious symptoms that require medical attention."

"New technologies are helping more people around the world find out more about their health and to make better informed decisions," said David McDaid, Senior Research Fellow, LSE. "However, people need to make sure that the information they find will make them better – not worse. People should check online sources by looking for a quality mark, checking the 'about us' section on websites, and looking at when the information was last updated."

Better access to health information can increase patient choice and empower people by being more informed about their symptoms and gaps in knowledge. But patients must also beware. When a health symptom was entered on three distinct health information websites, three very different diagnoses were generated – which could lead to various and potentially unwarranted reactions on the part of a worried Internet surfer.

This Bupa Health Pulse survey is the final in a three-part series. The first set of findings on Ageing was released in September 2010 and the second set on Chronic Disease was released in December 2010. For more details of the survey, which includes data for all 12 countries, as well as the full LSE report, please visit www.bupa.com/healthpulse/healthandwellbeing.

Methodology of Bupa Health Pulse 2010 Research:
Ipsos MORI interviewed 12,262 members of the general public across 12 markets between June 10 and July 14, 2010. These were: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain, and the United States. All interviews took place through Ipsos online panels and Ipsos panel partners. Quotas were set as to be nationally representative by gender, age and region across all markets with the following exceptions:

  • Brazil, China, Mexico and Russia: the quota for age was set to be nationally representative up to the age of 50.
  • India: quotas were set on age, gender and region to be representative of the online population.
Data are weighted.
In the US, 1,008 members of the general public were interviewed.

About Health Dialog:
Health Dialog Services Corporation is a leading provider of healthcare analytics and decision support. The firm is a private, wholly-owned subsidiary of Bupa, a global provider of healthcare services. Health Dialog helps healthcare payors improve healthcare quality while reducing overall costs. Company offerings include health coaching for medical decisions, chronic conditions, and wellness; population analytic solutions; and consulting services. Health Dialog helps individuals participate in their own healthcare decisions, develop more effective relationships with their physicians, and live healthier, happier lives. For more information please visit www.healthdialog.com.

About Ipsos MORI:
Ipsos MORI is one of the largest and best known research companies in the UK and a key part of the Ipsos Group, a leading global research company. With a direct presence in 60 countries, its clients benefit from specialist knowledge drawn from their five global practices: public affairs research, advertising testing and tracking, media evaluation, marketing research and consultancy, customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Media Inquiries:
Kiran Ganda
Health Dialog
kganda@healthdialog.com
617.406.5239

Footnotes:

1) D McDaid and A-La Park. Online Health: Untangling the Web, London School of Economics: examines the role of the internet in healthcare and contextualizes the Bupa Health Pulse 2010 findings
2) Katy Huberty, Ehud Gelblum, Morgan Stanley Research. Data and Estimates as of 11/2010
3) D McDaid and A-La Park. Online Health: Untangling the Web, London School of Economics: examines the role of the internet in healthcare and contextualizes the Bupa Health Pulse 2010 findings

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