|New Report Indicates Changes in How Americans Get Their Information about Health and Cancer|
Schmalfeldt: Although the Internet remains a frequent first source for Americans seeking health care information, a new study indicates that the public's trust in online material about health has declined. At the same time, more folks are expressing confidence in the information they get from health care professionals. The report-Cancer Communication: Health Information National Trends Survey 2003 and 2005-is a survey done every other year and sponsored by the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Bradford Hesse, chief of the Health Communications and Informatics Research Branch at the NCI, explains the results.
Hesse: People look to their physicians first and foremost as a trusted source of information. They went to the Internet because that was their first choice, but when they got there, what we're finding is that they're not quite as convinced that the information they have is credible. In fact, it's driving them to go to their physicians that much more. So we're seeing an increase in people going to their physicians now than we saw from 2003, and an increase in trust in their physicians.
Schmalfeldt: Dr. Hesse explained why folks continue to use the Internet as their first source for getting health care info, even though they are trusting it less.
Hesse: In the beginning, I think the very first phase, people who were going online and getting access to health information online were doing it in sort of a self-advocating way, so they would go and try to fill in the gaps in any way they could. Providers are now recognizing that they can meet an important need by putting information out themselves that is vetted and credible for their subscribers and their clients and their patients to use. We're seeing slight increases from 2003 to 2005, but we're going to be seeing even more of that as time progresses.
Schmalfeldt: Use of the Internet as a source for cancer-specific information remained relatively unchanged during the study period. Yet, the number of people using the Internet to communicate with their healthcare provider or their provider's office-using e-mail to ask questions or set up appointments, for instance-increased from 7 percent in 2003 to 10 percent in 2005.