Earlier this week, Satistics Canada released its findings of the 2010 Canadian Internet Use Survey. This report found that searching for medical or health on the internet was the 5th most popular reason that people used the internet at 64%. This was down slightly from the 2008 report of the Canadian Internet Project which found that searching for health information was the response of 70% of the respondents.
At first I was surprised by this finding, but then I looked closer at the report. The Stats Canada Reports cautions that they had changed their survey questions due to the changing ways people access the Internet and not to compare these findings to earlier ones. It makes sense that, with the advent of mobile technology and social media, searching for information is taking a back seat to entertainment when using the internet.
What does this mean to us as providers of consumer health information? How do we take advantage of the new trends in internet use? I recently signed up with a twitter account and was surprised at how many health related twitter accounts are out there. Many of the postings refer me to news posts and websites. #hcsmca is one of my favorite accounts to follow. Google Alerts has also introduced me to news reports and current research findings in the health care field. Many health care organizations and associations are jumping on the social media bandwagon as a way to market themselves. They post twitter and facebook messages about new items on their websites.
As I was writing this blog post, I read a twitter message about this same Stats Can report that sent me to this report by Marketing4Health.ca. The post has a slightly different response to the findings than I did, but we both note the rising increase of social media. There is only a 6% difference in the number of people using social media and those searching for health information. Social media is still very new to people and its use can only be expected to rise. It should also be noted that social media is a daily activity while traditional searching for health information is an occasional activity.
What are your thoughts on the changing use of the internet? How do we as health information professionals adapt? Have you found ways to engage with social media or helped your patients engage?
Mary Anne Howse, CHIPIG Program Coordinator