Top 5 health questions asked online (and where to find answers)

When you look online to answer a question about health, there are many things you could be searching for: information about your personal symptoms, ways to improve your own diet and fitness, news  from trusted and unbiased sources, the latest from prominent organizations and government agencies, or the opinions of healthcare leaders.

We’ve rounded up a list of the top five types of health questions asked online,  as well as some stand-out examples in each category.

  1. Yikes, what’s up with this rash on my arm? Wow, does that mole look weird? Could I be allergic to chocolate? What exactly is a cluster headache, and how many is normal? Many, many people use the internet as a way to triage a new medical issue, find more information about something that’s too embarrassing to bring up to their doctor, or oftentimes find reassurance about something that seems worrisome. WebMD is the leader here but the Mayo Clinic has a useful site too.
  2. How can I lose weight or improve my own health? There is a wealth of information online about ways to cut calories, give up gluten, or become a yogi. These blogs, often with recipe guides, workout videos, and shopping lists, bring their readers the best in healthy eating and workout inspiration. Ranging from paleo to vegetarian to pilates to training, you’re guaranteed to find something to match your interests, goals and effort level.
  3. What’s the latest news around Obamacare? You may want more information about the recent Supreme Court ruling about the Affordable Care Act, or questions about the recent vaccination bill in California. Sites with the best reporting are most often associated with a bigger media presence, like the New York Times Well site , Vox’s health and science section, and NPR’s health blog Shots. Another trusted resource we’ve found is  the Kaiser Family Foundation for longer policy analysis and research.
  4. Who are the players in healthcare or public health, and what are they up to?   You’ll find a huge amount of variance in the content here, which will match the mission of the organization, which can include grant-making foundations, research think tanks, and government agencies. For national public health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a great resource for recent innovations, successes and grant opportunities. Those in global public health may enjoy PLOS.orgs blog, written by experts in the field. If you’re in the policy space, you’ll want to monitor some of the information on the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ blog.
  5. Who are the leaders in public health and healthcare, and what do they think? There are some really smart, passionate people writing about public health, health policy, and the issues around transforming care delivery. You may be interested in reading Dr. Atul Gawande’s work around healthcare improvement and larger cultural shifts in medicine. Dr. Mike Evans is a Canadian doctor who makes fun videos about all sorts of health issues, like the importance of walking and what binge drinking really means.

What do you think about the list we made? Do you agree? Disagree? Have a great resource to add? Let us know in the comments!

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9 thoughts on “Top 5 health questions asked online (and where to find answers)

  1. Excellent post. Very professional. I particularly like the various hyperlinks you insert, as well as the bottom portion where you encourage your readers to provide feedback. It doesn’t surprise me that WebMD gets the most hits. It is such a great resource for information. Great job synthesizing your blog searches into a concise list.

  2. Very engaging post and good choice of headers-teasers. Definitely drew me into trailing a few resources linked in the blog.

  3. Liked your title, drew me in. I think number one is right on, the web is typically the first place people are asking those questions, trying to decide if they should seek medical advice.

  4. Loved it. Very catchy and drew me in right away … particularly being medically oriented. Also great use of links throughout so that one can easily reference or bookmark them where appropriate ! Well done.

  5. Great post! You had excellent resources and provided a great summary of information. How did you find out that these were the top 5 questions? I also liked your tone–it was both engaging and eloquent. I think the post could be even more improved by the addition of an image or some other sort of media. Overall, nice job!

  6. What an awesome post! Like others have mentioned, I liked how you incorporated links to other websites, it was really easy to follow. I especially like your first category and think it deserves lot of attention. There is ongoing talks about how to make an app replace the initial doctor visit, so that patients can be screened without having to leave the house. Off course the downside of that is that people may get misdiagnosed and that an app can’t really replace human interaction. Although WebMD is a useful site, it does, in my opinion, tend to list all kinds of diseases for most common symptoms. I know my doctor told me multiple times to stop “googling my symptoms”, because the results can often times be very scary! It would be interesting to see if WebMD, or other similar sites, will continue to used by the public

  7. Kristina, great post. I like the casual way you start the first question with “yikes!’ Makes me feel like I’m reading something I can relate to, rather than something full of medical jargon. I was wondering — how did you compile the top five asked questions? I think you shared some great information!

    I would suggest maybe putting in a disclaimer or a warning, reminding people not to freak out at everything they read, and that at the end of the day, self-diagnosis can only go so far. I know a few people who have gotten some random symptom and instead of going to the doctor, choose to deal with things themselves. Sometimes it works out…and sometimes it doesn’t!

    • Hi Amanda, thanks for the feedback! The list wasn’t rigorously made; I looked up a bunch of websites and tried my best to synthesize…

      I didn’t write it up, but if folks follow the links to WebMD they will get some warnings and disclaimers there. Good tip though, thanks!

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