New Health Union Survey Reveals Importance of Online Health Communities

New Health Union Survey Reveals Importance of Online Health Communities

Patients Rely on Facebook and Condition-Specific Web Sites to Share Information, Get Support, and Start Discussions with Healthcare Providers

Lauren Lawhon

Lauren Lawhon Chief Operating Officer

By Lauren Lawhon
Chief Operating Officer – Health Union
June 15, 2016

A new survey from Health Union of more than 2,200 people with chronic health conditions and their caregivers illustrates how patients use online health information to better understand their health condition, learn about symptoms and treatment, and share experiences with other patients living with the same health condition. The findings are summarized in a recently published white paper, entitled “Social Media for Health: What Patients Really Want.” Download a copy of this report using the form below.

Condition-specific websites are the leading health resources for these patients online, with 70% of survey respondents using them and 29% rating them as their most valuable resource for health-related information. These numbers expound on the findings of the 2013 Pew Research Center survey on the social life of health information, which found that 73% of U.S. adults with at least one chronic condition have sought health information online.

While condition-specific websites are the most popular online resource, Facebook is the most frequently used social media resource for consuming and sharing health information. Twenty-six percent of respondents use it once or more daily for health, and more than half at least monthly. To maximize medical information access, Health Union has a Facebook page for each of its condition-specific online communities. This complementary presence allows community members to maximize engagement. For example, Health Union’s has a weekly Facebook reach of about 500,000.

People with chronic-conditions use online platforms to share and get support from others like themselves. As noted in the survey findings:

In the previous six months, 49% of individuals have posted or shared a personal story or content online and 48% have shared a health-related post, photo or video that was not their own… The desire to explain their condition drives most of those who posted or shared content online, along with managing or coping with the symptoms. This mirrors the behaviors observed on Health Union platforms, like, and, where content that promotes understanding and support for these conditions receive the highest levels of engagement in social media.

In addition to getting support and information, survey respondents report using social media platforms to inform their discussions with healthcare providers (HCP). A staggering 97% use the information gathered online when visiting their HCP, with 73% citing it as having at least some impact on their health-related decisions.

“We are excited to see that patients are turning to online resources throughout their healthcare journey. People with chronic health conditions prefer online community resources, like the platforms provided by Health Union. These data confirm the value patients find by accessing online communities,” said Tim Armand, president and co-founder of Health Union.

Health Union’s “Online Health Information Experience Survey” was conducted online in April 2016, with 2,253 respondents with serious chronic conditions and their caregivers, who had used an online resource for health information during the previous six months.