Consumers Choose Health Sites with Doctors’ Input

Consumers believe the most credible health Web sites are those recommended by their physicians or sponsored by a local hospital, according to a study by LaurusHealth.com. The health-related Web sites viewed as least credible by consumers are ones sponsored by companies that sell products on the site.

The study found that 67 percent of the consumers polled considered health Web sites recommended by their physician to be the most credible and trustworthy, followed closely at 61 percent by Web sites sponsored by their doctor. Health sites affiliated with doctors and hospitals scored high overall, with 56 percent of consumers trusting Web sites sponsored by their local hospital and 51 percent trusting sites sponsored by an alliance of doctors and hospitals.

“It’s exciting to see these research findings confirm that health care consumers want to access the new Internet health care tools from their traditional, trusted sources — their doctors and their hospital,” said Dr. Peter Plantes, LaurusHealth Medical Director.

Consumers place the least amount of credibility, according to the study, in sites that are sponsored by a company that sells products via the Internet (9 percent). Other health Web sites perceived to be less credible are those consumers saw in a TV ad (13 percent); sponsored by a pharmaceutical company (21 percent); and those identified with the name of a famous doctor (28 percent). Even sites recommended by a friend were viewed much lower in credibility at 32 percent than those affiliated with a doctor or hospital.

The study was conducted by LaurusHealth.com, an Internet resource created by VHA Inc., a nationwide alliance of doctors and hospitals.

Speaking of credibility, a study conducted by pediatric specialists at Ohio State University, College of Medicine, reviewed 60 health sites for information pertaining to childhood diarrhea. Only 20 percent of the sites provided information that complied with the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics and 80 percent gave incorrect and possibly dangerous information to the general public.

A study by M.R. Beal & Company that looed at 21 heavily trafficked health sites discovered that most are sharing the personal health information of visitors with advertisers without the visitors’ knowledge and permission.

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