Users Are Skittish to Reveal Health Data Online

Share this content:
Fifty-two million American adults, 55 percent of the Internet-using public, have gone to the Web to research health information, but their unwillingness to reveal personal data makes it unclear whether they would fully accept healthcare online, according to a study released this week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The survey of 6,413 Internet users older than age 18, conducted from March to August, found that 80 percent of those who had sought health information online said it is important that they can get the information anonymously. Only 21 percent had provided their e-mail addresses to a health Web site, and only 17 percent had provided their name or other identifying information.

Consumers have shown an instinctive mistrust of putting their personal information on the Internet, said Lee Rainie, director at the Pew Internet & American Life Project. When it comes to personal health data, that mistrust is compounded by fears that information that consumers put on the Web could be used against them by employers or by insurance companies.

Many fear that Web businesses tracking their activities on the Internet could lead to the loss of their health insurance coverage, Rainie said. However, there is no evidence of a single case of this happening.

"There is sort of a predisposition Americans have about this," Rainie said. "They don't give up their name for health materials as they do for non-health [materials]."

This hesitancy to risk revealing personal information may be part of the reason why consumers continue to seek only health content on the Internet and have not shown a willingness to use health products and services. Only 10 percent of those surveyed said they had purchased medicine or vitamins online, while 9 percent said they had communicated with a doctor online.

Convincing consumers to spend money online for health products may be a matter of waiting until more users become experienced with the Web and comfortable with online purchasing, Rainie said. The medical establishment can help that process by investing in an online presence. New users will be more willing to deal online with familiar businesses, such as insurance companies, drug makers and bricks-and-mortar pharmacies.

Other findings from the study include:

• Forty-eight percent of those who sought health information for themselves said the material affected their decision, while 36 percent of those who sought information for others said the material influenced their actions.

• Ninety-one percent of those who sought health information said they looked for material regarding a particular illness, while only 13 percent said they looked for general fitness and nutrition information.

• Sixty-three percent of women with Internet access have sought health information online, compared with 43 percent of men.
Loading links....

Sign up to our newsletters

Company of the Week

We recently were named B2B Magazine's Direct Marketing Agency of the Year, and with good reason: We make real, measureable, positive change happen for our clients. A full-service agency founded in 1974, Bader Rutter expertly helps you get the right message to the right audience at the right time through the right channels. As we engage our clients' audiences along their journey, direct marketing (email, direct mail, phone, SMS) and behavioral marketing (SEM, retargeting, contextual) channels deliver information relevant to the needs of each stage. We are experts at implementing and leveraging marketing technologies such as CRM and marketing automation in order to synchronize sales and marketing communications. Our team of architects and activators plan, execute, measure and adjust in real time to ensure the strategy is working as needed and change things if it's not.

Find out more here »

DMN's Career Center

Check out hundreds of exciting professional opportunities available on DMN's Career Center.  
Explore careers in digital marketing, sales, eCommerce, marketing communications, IT, data strategies, and much more. And don't forget to update your resume so employers can contact you privately about job opportunities.

>>Click Here