Not surprisingly, the survey of 1,000 adults found that younger people were more likely to use social media than older people for healthcare purposes. Overall, nearly a third of respondents, and 50 percent of those under the age of 35, had used social media for healthcare purposes, which can range from registering a complaint to looking up informational videos on YouTube.
The PwC report concluded that social media would continue to be a factor for healthcare providers and consumers, saying that healthcare is "no longer social media's wallflower." At the same time, however, ambiguous regulations, privacy concerns and a host of other factors all limit how patients and healthcare providers use social media to make decisions.
But once these hurdles are overcome, the PwC report said, social media "will open new opportunities to improve health delivery and outcomes."
Facebook (18 percent) was the most popular site for people searching for healthcare information, followed by YouTube (12 percent) and blogs (nine percent).
There are still some barriers keeping big swaths of the healthcare industry on the sidelines when it comes to social media, including what the PwC study called "elusive" FDA guidelines that make it difficult for pharmaceutical companies to use the platform to connect with consumers.
The survey also touched on privacy and security concerns, noting that half of all healthcare organizations had a privacy or security breach within the past year, and the potential for breaches could increase as more companies utilize cloud computing and look for ways to share information amongst different providers.