As the Web Goes Mobile, Healthcare Stands Still

The State of Social Media and Healthcare: General Healthcare Trends for Patients Online

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–U.S. consumers seeking health information online are more likely to visit Wikipedia than health magazine websites or Facebook, connect through a PC rather than a mobile device, and be swayed by word of mouth over direct-to-consumer advertising, according to results from a new national consumer survey conducted by Makovsky Health and Kelton. The Makovsky-Kelton research investigates consumers’ overall engagement with online healthcare information, and reveals specific consumer preferences for online publishing sources, channels and even devices. Data pinpoint trust in content sources, with consumers rating government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and advocacy organizations among the most credible.

“These survey data shed light on where companies should invest to engage consumers in cost-efficient, yet effectively engaging ways.”

“Whether they want guidance for an informed conversation with their doctor, or the support of a larger community coping with the same illness, consumers seek trusted sources for health information,” said Gil Bashe, executive vice president and practice director, Makovsky Health. “With new and evolving access points, understanding the consumer mindset is critical to supporting improved health outcomes. These new survey results enhance our understanding of how and with whom consumers connect online, and help ensure that credible, useful information is readily accessible to the patients who need it.”

MAK Logo.jpg

MAK Logo.jpg

“The macro-trend – globally and in the U.S. – is moving from web to mobile. Yet, when it comes to healthcare, data show the desktop search is vastly preferred, meaning the newest channels might not be best for healthcare marketers,” said Tom Bernthal, CEO, Kelton. “These survey data shed light on where companies should invest to engage consumers in cost-efficient, yet effectively engaging ways.”

Fielded to 1,001 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and older in July 2012, the survey reveals distinct findings about consumer preferences for online health information.

When and How Do Consumers Search?
People are still most likely to use a personal computer (90%) – and not a smartphone (7%) or tablet (4%) – to search for health information online. Further, these PC-reliant consumers are more likely than smartphone/tablet-reliant consumers to visit a pharma website after receiving a diagnosis from their doctor (52% vs. 31%), whereas smartphone/tablet users are far more likely than PC users (43% vs. 24%) to visit a pharma website after they experience a few symptoms.

Who Do Consumers Trust?
If seeking information about their own medical condition(s), consumers trust advocacy group and government agency websites (e.g., CDC or FDA) nearly as much (33%) as they trust websites with medical information, such as WebMD (35%). Further, a personal recommendation from a friend, family member or colleague (33%) is a stronger motivator to visit a pharma website than TV advertisements (27%), magazine advertisements (14%), digital advertisements (13%), or discounts (16%). Consumers also report an overall preference for externally-sourced information, though user-generated content on Wikipedia is gaining high levels of trust:

  • 56% of Americans use WebMD for healthcare information
  • 31% visit Wikipedia, which has emerged as a trusted source of credible information, an increase of 13% from Makovsky Health’s 2011 survey
  • 29% visit health magazine websites online (e.g., Prevention, Women’s Health)
  • Social networking sites are utilized by far fewer Americans for healthcare information: Facebook (17%), YouTube (15%), blogs (13%), and Twitter feeds with links to other resources (6%)

How Can a Company Connect?
In the context of Facebook, consumers are just as likely to rank a pharma company-generated page about a specific medication (9%) as their most trusted Facebook source as they are a pharma company’s disease-state page (6%) – far lower than Facebook content generated by sources such as government agencies or patient groups. But when it comes to news and announcements from a company, consumers are most likely to believe traditional sources:

  • 53% are most likely to believe company news from a press release
  • 29% are most apt to believe what is posted on a company website
  • Official corporate Facebook pages are a distant third (12%), while only 2% have the strongest faith in company news posted on Twitter

About Makovsky

Founded in 1979, Makovsky ( is one of the nation’s largest independent integrated communications firms. The firm attributes its success to its original vision: that the Power of Specialized Thinking™ is the best way to build reputation, sales and fair valuation for a client. Based in New York City, the firm has agency partners in more than 27 countries and in 37 U.S. cities through IPREX (, the second largest worldwide public relations agency partnership, of which Makovsky is a founder.

Kelton Logo.jpg

Kelton Logo.jpg

About Kelton

Kelton is a research, strategy and design consultancy that works with many of the world’s largest and most recognizable brands to help them better understand and connect with consumers. Kelton provides highly customized qualitative, quantitative, innovation and design research for a wide variety of companies across multiple sectors. For more information, please see

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