NEW YORK; April 10, 2006 – U.S. consumers trust the Internet nearly as much as they do pharmacists as a resource from which to learn about medications, according to the results of a survey released today by Accenture.
More than six out of 10 (61 percent) of the survey’s 1,000 U.S. respondents said that physicians are their most trusted source for medication information, followed by pharmacists and online medical sites (16 percent and 13 percent, respectively). Nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of all respondents said that they learn about medications from pharmaceutical company-sponsored websites.
“The Internet has solidified its position as a trusted resource,” said Philip George, a partner in Accenture’s Health & Life Sciences practice. “While physicians remain the top source for information about medications, the gap is narrow between pharmacists and online medical sites for the number two spot. The ease of access to online resources has improved, empowering patients to become more involved in choices about their healthcare and engaging their physicians in discussions about the information they have amassed.”
Respondents said that the main reasons they conduct more research today than they did five years ago are to identify potential safety risks and side effects related to medications prescribed for them (cited by 81 percent) and to educate themselves so that they can play a larger role in their medical care (cited by 76 percent). More than half (59 percent) of all polled said that they ask their physicians about medications they have learned about online or elsewhere. Of patients who initiate these discussions, one-third (33 percent) said their physicians prescribed those same medications.
In addition to conducting their own research, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of respondents said that they have seen information provided by pharmaceutical companies in TV ads. Eighty-three percent said that they always or sometimes trust pharmaceutical company-provided information about medications, whereas only 60 percent said they always or sometimes trust company-sponsored advertising. Despite respondents’ greater scrutiny of advertising, almost three-quarters (74 percent) of those polled said that advertising always or sometimes helps them learn about medications about which they may not have otherwise known.
"The future of healthcare is centered on the distinct needs of patients and connecting the right information at the right time to help make decisions about their care," said George. "Pharmaceutical companies, physicians and the larger healthcare community should continue to drive patient information through a multitude of channels. This will enable consumers to become even more informed about their healthcare options."
The survey also highlighted gender differences among respondents. According to the findings, women turn to online medical sites more than men (54 percent versus 43 percent) and peruse pharmaceutical company-hosted websites more than men (26 percent versus 18 percent). Additionally, significantly more women than men – 61 percent versus 50 percent – always read the package insert that comes with their prescription when starting a new medication.
The Accenture survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers taking medication(s) on a regular basis was fielded online and by telephone in January 2006.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills and technologies to help clients improve their performance. With more than 129,000 people in 48 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$15.55 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2005. Its home page is www.accenture.com.