In 2006 over 80% of all internet users (over 113 million Americans) searched at least once for medical information on one of some 17 conditions. Today that number has exploded. The number using the internet as well as “social media” is climbing rapidly. Americans are seeking information about a wide array of health topics: health in general, specific diseases, specific surgical or medical procedures, medications, exercise, fitness, their doctor(s), hospital(s), health insurance, alternative therapies and medications, weight loss, weight control, depression and other mental health matters, as well as experimental and research issues and travel medicine.
The new Pew Study outlined below does clearly show that the internet per se, cannot and will not replace physician / patient direct communication. That is the reason that while there has been a rush to broad medical data and information being available on the web, the amount of “sure, trusted” content is questionable. It is often difficult for patients or information gatherers to know the difference between quality content and questionable content. Companies such as NorthPoint Domain (part of IC Sciences, Inc) have pioneered the use of physician directed content on the web. Their approach has been to have the physician, medical provider, health care facility be the facilitator of accessing information on the internet about the specific conditions, tests and treatments involved in each individual patients care. This format has resulted in great satisfaction levels as well as high rates of user access to the prescribed information (”information therapy”).
We believe that the evolution of trends like physician directed information on the internet as well as the rapid evolution of the social web as part of health care will revolutionize health care before our very eyes. This even as we struggle with archaic social structures used to provide and direct health care. It may well be that Real Health Reform lies as much in information as it does in insurance coverage. As the saying goes: knowledge is power . . . obi jo and jomaxx
Americans’ pursuit of health takes place within a widening network of both online and offline sources. Whereas someone may have in the past called a health professional, their Mom, or a good friend, they now are also reading blogs, listening to podcasts, updating their social network profile, and posting comments. And many people, once they find health information online, talk with someone about it offline.
61% of American adults look online for health information. In 2000, 46% of American adults had access to the internet, 5% of U.S. households had broadband connections, and 25% of American adults looked online for health information. Now, 74% of American adults go online, 57% of American households have broadband connections, and 61% of adults look online for health information. We use the term “e-patient” to describe this group.
Change is coming, whether through the spread of wireless devices or generational shifts. Wireless connections are associated with deeper engagement in social media and an accelerated pace of information exchange. Indeed, those with mobile access to the internet are more likely than those who have tethered access to contribute their comments and reviews to the online conversation about health and health care. And mobile access is on the rise.
Second, adults between the ages of 18 to 49 are more likely than older adults to participate in social technologies related to health. As younger adults face more health care questions and challenges, they may turn to the tools they have sharpened in other contexts of their lives to gather and share health advice. But in the end, experts remain vital to the health-search and decision-making process. Americans’ longstanding practices of asking a health professional, a trusted friend, or a wise family member persist as patients pursue good health. These are practices not likely to change and therefore require designers of any new health care application to look not ahead, but to look around in order to see the future.
The Social Life of Health Information – http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/8-The-Social-Life-of-Health-Information.
Pew Survey: Health Consumers Find More Help on Web – http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2009/06/11/pew-survey-health-consumers-find-more-hel
Medicine in the Age of Twitter – http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/11/health/11chen.html?_r=2
Guidelines for the Clinical Use of Electronic Mail with Patients – http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=945
Online Health Search 2006 – http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2006/Online-Health-Search-2006.aspx
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