Health Care Searches Differ Depending on Gender, Age

Women’s search patterns indicate interest in clarification on complex medical terms, while men make more use of natural language search capability.

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The health care search behaviors of American workers employed at Fortune 500 companies changes significantly according to demographic factors such as age, gender and region, according to a report from Castlight Health, a cloud-based enterprise health care management software specialist.

Search data reveals that women search more than men in Castlight's platform--women are about 52 percent of the eligible Castlight population but do almost 60 percent of the searching in the platform.

Analysis revealed men and women often have different search triggers, with some exceptions such as family planning and family care.

Overall, the study indicated women and men shop for health care very differently. Women’s search patterns indicate interest in clarification on complex medical terms, while men make more use of natural language search capability to address a specific health problem.

This held steady across ages and types of searches. For example, women were 20 percent more likely to search for "dentist," whereas men were 50 percent more likely to search for "tooth."

Men were 1.5 –3 times as likely to search for terms like "hand," "knee" and "shoulder" whereas women were almost twice as likely to search for "orthopedist" or "orthopedic surgeon."

Men are also more likely to shop late night. Daytime searchers predominate across gender, age and region (80 percent of all searches were performed during daytime hours (6 a.m. to 5 p.m.), but men, especially younger men (ages 20-34) are almost three times more likely than average to search overnight (12 a.m. to 5 a.m.), according to survey results.

"Through our analysis of search data, we find that employees are searching for a variety of resources related to their health—medical care, pharmacy, dental care, chronic conditions, wellness programs and so on," Sophie Pinkard, director of strategic analytics for Castlight Health, told eWEEK. "Since these benefits are often each provided by different vendors, it is critical for employees to have a 'one-stop shop' where they can find quick and easy access to the right program at their time of need, rather than having to search on a different site for each."

Interest in dental care and anxiety medications skew heavily to Millennials, not consistently across age groups as the company expected, Fiber explained.

She said for employers seeking to attract young workers, they may want to consider how they structure and promote benefit programs for dental care and behavioral health.

"We are intrigued by the potential of deploying our big data capabilities to explore proactive health care interventions. We're curious as to what that might mean to support employee health and reduced wasteful medical spend by employers," she said. "Can harnessing search data provide a new way for employers to help employees make better health-care decisions before they actually receive care? It will be exciting to find out."

Pinkard also noted Castlight is available on mobile, so they know that people are searching right in their doctors' office and putting that information to use to help facilitate conversations about not just care but the cost and quality of care.