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Study: Consulting "Dr. Google" Keeps Family Healthy

"Dr. Google" is becoming a first-line defense for the health of today's American families. One in three women (36%) agree that, at times, the health information that they find online does a better job at keeping their family healthy than seeing a doctor, according to a online survey of 512 US women conducted by TNS and commissioned by Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide earlier this month.

The survey found that women use the Internet to obtain health information because they can find information about a health condition or issue quickly (67%), they can get information that they need at any time of day (64%), and it is less expensive than going to the doctor (29%).

Healthcare costs -- whether costs overall or cost for insurance -- rank high on women's list of health concerns for 2011. The survey found that almost a third of women (31%) believe, compared to last year, that their ability to manage their family's healthcare costs is worse, while only 10% believe their ability to manage their family's healthcare costs is better compared to last year.

"It seems that the convenience, accessibility and low cost of health information online is providing an alternative to going into the doctor's office for some women," said Monique da Silva, head of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide's North America Healthcare Practice, who unveiled the research findings at the second annual M2W®–HC™ — Marketing Pharma & Healthcare to Women Conference today, at the Chicago Cultural Center. "The vast online health resources available are empowering women to find out about their own and their family's health. But it also is an enabler for self care, either by choice or force, due to limited financial resources. It's like having access to your own private medical staff who are there when you need them.

"For companies who are trying to reach women about health-related topics, making sure that responsible, easily understood educational information is available, and ensuring that the value of their service or product is clearly communicated, is critical to securing receptivity and engagement by your audience," added da Silva.

Women's online efforts are coming at a cost as well. The survey found that half of the women (52%) participating in the survey found it sometimes stressful to keep up with the increasing number of ways to get information (e.g., Facebook, work and personal email, IM). And one in five women (19%) expect the time they spend keeping up online to increase over the next year.

"Competition for women's share-of-mind when it comes to health information is bound to increase over the next year. As communicators, we must break through all this clutter to tell compelling, educational and creative stories about health and ways to improve health," said da Silva. "With the explosive growth in social media, the tendency is to engage women through all channels, but success is based on building a sustained connection with the right women through the right channel to drive sustained behavior change."

Other survey findings include:

  • A third of women (32%) with children under 18 in household were not able to go to a physician, while more than a quarter of them (28%) were not able to fill prescriptions for themselves in the financial downturn  
  • Half of women (48%) agree that they are more concerned about managing their family's health this year than they were last year --  perhaps this is why 54% agree that there are times that they've had to take shortcuts with their health
  • Two in five women (40%) admit that they go to doctor's appointments armed with information they have found on the Internet

More information on the survey findings are available at Ogilvy Public Relations' new group blog, WomenOlogy: The Anatomy of Marketing to Women ( The blog's diverse global perspectives reflect the agency's work across multiple locations and practice areas including Health, Consumer, Social Marketing, Digital and Corporate Affairs. Join the conversation!

More about the Survey:

An online survey was conducted using the field services of TNS. The study reached a national sample of 1,000 American adults ages 18 and older balanced to Census, of which 512 were women.  The margin of error for the total sample (n=512) is +/-4.4% at the 95% confidence level. This means that if we were to replicate the study, we would expect to get the same results (within 4.4 percentage points) 95 times out of 100.  


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