Health Information-Seeking on Behalf of Others: Characteristics of "Surrogate Seekers"
Understanding the behaviors of surrogate seekers (those who seek health information for others) may guide efforts to improve health information transmission. We used 2011-2012 data from the Health Information National Trends Survey to describe behaviors of online surrogate seekers. Respondents were asked about use of the Internet for surrogate-seeking over the prior 12 months. Data were weighted to calculate population estimates. Two thirds (66.6 %) reported surrogate-seeking. Compared to those who sought health information online for only themselves, surrogate seekers were more likely to live in households with others (weighted percent 89.4 vs. 82.5 % of self-seekers; p < 0.05); no significant differences in sex, race, income or education were observed. Surrogate seekers were more likely to report activities requiring user-generated content: email communication with healthcare providers; visits to social networking sites to read and share about medical topics and participation in online health support groups. On multivariate analysis, those who had looked online for healthcare providers were more likely to be surrogate seekers (OR 1.67, 95 % CI 1.08-2.59). In addition to seeking health information, surrogate seekers create and pass along communications that may influence medical care decisions. Research is needed to identify ways to facilitate transmission of accurate health information.