Health status repeatedly is demonstrated to be a factor in consumer health IT use. One of our informants observed, “Diagnosis changes people and probably changes them as internet users.” A representative from a commercial health website observed that people tend to visit their webpages when “something new in their health life” occurs, whether that event is pregnancy, the appearance of a rash, a recommendation from a doctor to lose weight, or a family member’s diagnosis. When individuals are facing a health problem, an estimated 46% turn to the internet.
The fact that use would differ by health need is not surprising, yet the relationship between health and going online for related information is complicated by the fact that the odds of being an internet user are nearly twice as high for people in excellent or good health compared to those who are in fair or poor health. Yet, even though poor health may prevent some individuals from going online, within the community of people who access the internet, those very conditions may prompt more health-seeking behavior. One study found that although internet use tends to be lower for those who have disabilities or chronic illnesses, among internet users, about 86% of individuals with medical conditions or chronic diseases look online for information about various health topics, compared to 79% of internet users without those conditions. Similarly, while about 89% of individuals who had 10 or more doctor visits in the past year searched for health information, only 37% of those who had not seen a physician in the previous year were searchers.