While 71% of all Internet users search for health information, most of them are dissatisfied with the quality of material available. That is the top line from Wendy Davis' column on a new report from Forrester Research. Only 16% actually find the information they are looking for.
What a change in perspective from the usual banter about how 'everyone wants health information on line so let's give them more.' When the consumer is listened to, as in this report, the Field of Dreams fallacy becomes obvious ('build it and they will come' only happens in movies).
When consumers were asked what would improve the state of health-related search... Fifty-three percent of heavy search users (those who rely on search more now than one year ago) said they wanted clear indications of the author or source of the material. Forty-eight percent of the heavy searchers wanted a list of keywords related to their search, and 43 percent wanted to know which sites other users thought were helpful.
So maybe expert driven searches like Google Coop aren't the answer. In addition to wanting more source information (a national health objective is to increase the proportion of health-related Web sites that disclose information that can be used to assess the quality of the site), people want to hear from their peers about what's relevant and useful. You may want to consider how social or community search engines (like the swicki on this site) can begin to tailor health searches in a more customer-centric way. Or alternatively, should user voting and reviews or social tagging be incorporated into the next generation of health search engines?