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US adults are increasingly looking for health information online – to the extent that half say the internet is the first source they go to when researching health and wellness, according to data released by Kantar Media from its 2018 MARS Consumer Health Study.

Given the increasing amount of time spent online with smartphones, the devices are also playing a growing role in health research. An estimated 22.9 million adults will use a smartphone to research or read reviews on treatment this year, according to Kantar Media’s study, a figure that would represent more than twice the number from 2015 (10.9 million).

This phenomenon has also been noted by Adobe, which in a recent study revealed that the majority (57%) of traffic to consumer health information sites comes from mobile devices, including almost half (48%) from smartphones.

4 in 10 Exposed to Healthcare Advertising; Most Take Action

As a result of the growing use of the internet – and mobile devices – for health research, consumers are being exposed to healthcare advertising.

Specifically, per Kantar Media’s data, 2 in 5 people who have been diagnosed with a condition have seen or heard healthcare advertising on the internet or on a mobile device in the past year.

Most appear to have taken an action as a result of the advertising, too: 60% have done so in response to advertising on a mobile device; and 55% in response to ads on the internet. By comparison, fewer (42%) have taken some action as a result of seeing a healthcare ad on TV.

(It’s worth noting that while TV has traditionally been the top medium for healthcare advertising, the Healthcare & Pharma industry is the 10th-largest spender on digital advertising, with a double-digit rise in spending expected.)

The most common action taken in response to seeing healthcare ads on the internet or a mobile device, per the report, is conducting an online search. Some 24% of adults with a diagnosed condition who were exposed to healthcare advertising report having done so in the past year.

Other leading responses included refilling a prescription (17%), taking medication (14%) and making an appointment to see a doctor (13%), leading the analysts to note that digital healthcare can assist with patient compliance.

Other Study Highlights

  • 8 in 10 adults use the internet for health and wellness purposes, up from 71% in 2015.
  • Health information sites (68%) and search engine results (66%) are considered the most valuable digital sources of health information to those with a diagnosed condition, though many also find websites dedicated to a particular health condition (59%) and online communities/support groups or social networking sites (42%) to be valuable.

About the Data: The MARS Consumer Health Study is an annual, bilingual survey of approximately 20,000 adults across the US capturing key healthcare, pharma and media data.

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