Why do Kiwis go online for health information?

The majority of Kiwis are using the internet or social media to access health information, with females and those under forty most likely to educate themselves online.

The majority of Kiwis are using the internet or social media to access health information, with females and those under forty most likely to educate themselves online.

New research from Southern Cross Health Society, of 2,000 New Zealanders, shows the 57% of people clicking their way to health information used it to:

· look for information about a medicine (59%)

· get advice on a condition that they have, or may have (56%)

· look for information to make a self-diagnosis (45%)

· get advice on a condition that a family member or friend suffers from (39%)

· look for information about a hospital or clinic (23%)

Peter Tynan, Southern Cross Health Society CEO, says the Southern Cross experience marries up with this data.

“In the last year (to November 30, 2014), there were over 4,000,000 visits to Southern Cross websites, and over 55.5% of these were to our medical library,” he says.

“We certainly encourage people to use quality online medical information to educate and reassure themselves about conditions that they or their loved ones have.

“We would however urge caution on self-diagnosis and encourage people to visit their GP if they have any concerns about their health.”

Data shows that the types of devices used to access Southern Cross material online is also changing with a strong increase in access from smartphones.

In the last year:

· Desktop access decreased 23% to 63.7%

· Mobiles and smartphones increased 48% to 23.9%

· Tablets has also increased 29% to 12.4%.

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The five most viewed topics in the Southern Cross medical library, which offers information on a broad range of medical conditions and procedures, including prevention tips and health promotion ideas, were:

1. Pneumonia – 217,000 (47% of these accessed from a smartphone)

2. Glandular fever – 131,000 (43% accessed from a smartphone)

3. Strep throat – 121,500 (53% accessed from a smartphone)

4. Gout – 87,700 (34% accessed from a smartphone)

5. Shingles – 92,300 (37% accessed from a smartphone)

Tynan says this is not surprising given where technology is going and consumers’ desire for instant access to information.

So much so he says that Southern Cross has seen this reflected in its own member base and has responded with a number of innovative digital services, such as Easy-claim - an electronic point-of-sale system that allows members to claim instantly at a range of healthcare providers.

Southern Cross was also the first health insurer in New Zealand to launch a web-based self-service portal, My Southern Cross, which allows policyholders to claim online, view electronic copies of correspondence, review their policy information and update their details.

“People want a variety of ways of interacting with us depending on what sort of information they need, where they are and what they are doing,” Tynan adds.

“For instance, if someone is out and about and wants to check their policy benefits, then a smartphone app makes perfect sense, but if they want to discuss prior approval for a procedure then they will want to speak with someone on the phone.

“Our contact centre receives over 500,000 phone calls each year, so there is clearly a strong need for members to communicate with us.

“However over 50% of our claims are now received electronically.”