A little less than a year ago, I was collating a few ad-hoc statistics about the way that the Internet was being used to share private health information. At that time I particularly examined diabetes, a condition which when I was growing up was very personal, private, and a topic which people tended to avoid talking about in public.

However, as I started searching it was immediately apparent that the ‘social web’ has enabled and empowered people to now find peers and support networks which have significantly changed the way people relate to one another about personal health matters. There were literally thousands of photos, groups, discussions, and questions.

So when I was recently asked to begin preparing a new presentation about current online health consumer trends, I thought I might revisit some of those previous statistics to see what rate of change has occurred in the past 10 months. Once again, it was interesting to see how people share about their health online;

  • Examining photos tagged with ‘diabetes’ as a key word, there has been an increase of 39% in just 10 months; with a total of over 57,000 photos now on the website Flickr.com
  • Discussion groups in Yahoo! saw an increase of 13% to 3400
  • Average views of the Wikipedia page about ‘diabetes’ have risen by more than 20%

It is no surprise that consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet for information about their own health, or the health of someone close to them.

The ITU says that 1 in 4 people of the entire world population are now online; 3 in 4 citizens of the developed world. Additionally, research conducted in 2008 showed that from 2004 the increase in usage of the Internet for Health is 30% on average – even higher for younger generations.

Of the 3 in 4 people of the developed world that use the Internet, it seems that more than 80% searched online for health information, according to one study of people in the United States.

Perhaps more importantly, when those people find online health information more than 60% said that this online health information affected a decision about how to treat and illness or condition. In this way patients are increasingly empowered with knowledge that would once have been very difficult to obtain.

Yet it is not only ‘patients’ and consumers that are now actively searching the Internet for connections and information. 95% of Physicians in the European Union are using the Internet for professional use; 74% obtaining medical information online. Nearly half of Physicians in the European Union recommend websites to their patients, for condition awareness, patient support, lifestyle change, compliance, treatment information, communities and more.

We are witnessing a substantial change in the forces which affect the provision of healthcare.

This brief slideshow presents some of these key trends and technology changes. Click the fullscreen button to read it more clearly, and feel free to download or share this resource;