According to Susannah Fox of Pew Internet, the online health revolution is over.

Which you should not take to mean it’s no longer important. It’s just not a revolution anymore. Online health information is so rich and so available that, in Fox’s words, “it’s time to start building a new civilization.”

Consider her stats:

  • Today, 79 percent of all adults in the U.S. have Internet access.
  • Older people lag in Internet access, but their numbers have grown steadily, and they have what Fox calls “second-degree Internet access. Their loved ones are online.”
  • Two-thirds of Americans have broadband access at home, and use the Internet more than people with dial-up access.
  • Eighty-two percent of American adults have cell phones.
  • Sixty percent of American adults access the Internet wirelessly.

Fox names mobile access “the final front in the access revolution.” Virtually everyone has access. Post-revolution, information has become “portable, personalized, and participatory.”

What does this mean for healthcare marketers? Plenty.

First, it means you can reach patients wherever they are, in the way they’re already communicating. Social media sites are becoming places to share information about health topics. Patients are actively using Facebook and Twitter to find out about conditions that affect them and their families.

Second, it means you have the opportunity to reach them with information that matters to them. People no longer have to search big health databases to find answers. You can reach them with content that is very specific to their interests and needs: women’s health or weight loss or rapid heartbeat.

Third, and perhaps most important, it means people can and will share good health information. Fox says, accurately, that “people want to learn from each other–not just from institutions.”

Here’s Fox’s big question: “What will happen when the untapped knowledge of every patient, of every caregiver, of everyone who has something of value to share actually has the opportunity to share it?”

We don’t know. But we’re about to find out. The access revolution is over. The new civilization is here. Healthcare marketers need to understand that they’re no longer in control of the information–that it’s everywhere, and more people are creating it and taking advantage of it every day.

But just because you can’t control it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be part of it. Good, persuasive content that’s easy for people to understand and use is more essential than ever. Give people great information. Help them find it and make it easy to share. Celebrate the sharing: understand that, even though doctors are nurses are among the most trusted of professionals, people trust each other more than they trust you.

Be part of the new civilization; in fact, be a leader. It’s going to be exciting.