According to a new Kaiser Permanente survey, the majority of American consumers regard the Internet as an important health resource. Sixty-two percent of Americans surveyed say they use the Internet for health questions. Eighteen percent prefer the Web for referrals to community health services, while 16 percent would use the Internet to both research and treat nonurgent conditions. Although many consumers say they turn to the Internet for health information, regional disparities exist in how the Internet is used. With 68 percent of consumers in the western United States saying they use the Internet, residents in that region are more likely to turn to the Web than those in any other region. Midwesterners, at 52 percent, are least inclined to consult the Web for health concerns.

Employment status and education also influence how much Americans use the Internet as a health resource. At 70 percent, part-time workers use the Internet the most, while retirees, at 45 percent, are least likely to go to the Web. Internet use is clearly linked to level of education—at 51 percent, high-school graduates are less likely to take advantage of the Web's health resources; at 67 percent, college graduates are more likely; and post-graduates, at 75 percent, are most likely to use the Web.