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Guest blog: hello to HealthFriends

Posted May 09 2013 12:00am

Today I’m handing over to Healthfriends, so they can introduce themselves. I love the idea of sites like these, to empower patients and help us to find, and support, each other through illness and wellness alike. It’s the future, along with jetpacks and food that can read your mind. (You’ll find me over there, as stephanieb.)

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A new health-related social networking website, called HealthFriends ( www.health-friends.org) , has been launched to help users better manage their health.
Make friends and share your experiences
Through its online community, HealthFriends aims to empower patients, to become more informed about their conditions and to better manage their health by making friends with others who have similar health-related interests, sharing their experiences and supporting each other. From patients and carers to health professionals and anyone interested in health-related issues, HealthFriends aims to help users learn from other people’s experiences.
We’ve developed the site in partnership with a London GP who wanted to find a way for his patients to interact and support each other and we decided an online community site would be the best way of achieving this. An additional spur was personal experience of health issues, trying to find reliable sources of information once diagnosed, and then once recommended a course of treatment I wanted to be able to chat with people going through the same experience as myself to ensure I had been recommended the best option.
Empowering people
We feel that online communities of well-educated and knowledgeable patients can play a crucial role in their own treatment and that engaged and informed patients should have better health outcomes. As we’re calling it ’Patient powered health’ was recently highlighted in a BMJ article that calls for health professionals to let patients improve healthcare, to steer decisions and to recognise that patients have a crucial role to play in their treatment decisions.
Give your feedback on clinical services
While the site encourages users to discuss their illnesses and treatments, users can also provide feedback on their local hospital or GP Surgery. With the increasing choice available to patients about how and where they’re treated, we thought it was important for users to be able to comment on their hospital treatment, so if you’re about to go into hospital, you can read other people’s opinions before making your choice. We’re encouraging people to leave feedback on consultants, so that again, people can make informed choices as to who they see.
We’re also working with hospitals to encourage them to take on board our users’ comments to help improve their services, and also for hospitals to use HealthFriends to communicate directly with patients enabling hospitals to post with news and updates about their services.
Global reach
While the site has only recently been launched in the UK, HealthFriends will be promoting the site internationally, connecting patients globally and helping them to compare the effectiveness of treatment variations across different countries.
Local support
HealthFriends is also setup to support local or specific interest groups.  It’s simple for users to create groups and we’re working with patient societies to encourage them to setup groups – these groups can be generic or locally based and are designed to help people to continue to chat and support each other outside of monthly physical meetings.  For instance, we are working with Breast Cancer Care to setup regional groups, starting with a Llandudno Breast Cancer Support group.
Campaigns
While the key aim of HealthFriends is to connect users, the site also offers a broad range of other features including hundreds of health news stories and articles with new articles added daily. Users can also create and support campaigns to publicise and generate support for any issues they feel strongly about.
Find out more
The site is simple to use and free to join. For more details and to join, visit www.health-friends.org.
May 9, 2013
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