Consumers value objectivity over accuracy when seeking medical information: 8 findings

As healthcare adapts to a more consumer-centric marketplace, individuals are turning to alternative resources to obtain medical information. Not surprisingly, most individuals (95 percent) consult medical professionals for advice. The next most popular avenue is health websites, with 89 percent of individuals using them, according to a recent survey by Accenture.

The main reason? Consumers believe online searches yield unbiased information, subsequently improving its reliability.

Accenture conducted the survey among 2,003 U.S. consumers this year. Key findings from the survey are shown below.

Top sources of medical information

  • After consultations with medical professionals and health websites, 87 percent of U.S. consumers indicated that Internet searches using search engines like Google are a top source of medical information.
  • Seventy-four percent of respondents consult family and friends.
  • Ultimately, 67 percent of respondents consult their health plan for medical information, but 69 percent of respondents believe the information provided by insurers steers them in the preferred direction and 65 percent think the information given by insurers is difficult to apply to their own situation.

What makes a credible source in the eyes of consumers?

  • Three-fourths of respondents reported that lack of bias is more important than accuracy when searching for medical information.
  • Ninety-seven percent of respondents view medical professionals as both accurate and unbiased sources of information.
  • While about a quarter of consumers believe online searches yield inaccurate information, 87 percent still use the Internet because they believe it is unbiased.

Selecting a physician

  • The top sources for patient reviews consumers consult when selecting physicians are health plan websites (51 percent), Doctors Review (20 percent), Healthgrades (16 percent), Yelp (15 percent), Angie's List (11 percent) and ZocDoc (6 percent).
  • While most consumers consult their health plan's website for medical information, 34 percent of consumers select physicians based on patient reviews, while 9 percent use quality ratings.

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