Thursday, October 11, 2007

More patients turn to Internet for healthcare answers,

A report released yesterday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that of the 34 million adults living with disabilities or chronic diseases, about half go online to find helpful information regarding their condition.

Once online, 86 percent of these e-patients say they have searched for information on an average of 17 health topics. Of those surveyed with no chronic conditions, 79 percent reported searching on the same topics, the study found.

According to the study, use of the Internet by chronically ill Americans has grown over the past four years. Though those with chronic conditions are less likely to use the Internet, once online they are nearly as engaged as the general Internet population.

The patients with chronic conditions use the Internet to search for information on treatment decisions how to cope with pain and other topics, the study said. The downside is that most e-patients with chronic conditions do not consistently check the source and date of the health information they find online.

It appears that the patients with chronic conditions search for answers to their healthcare questions in hopes of coaching their doctors on possible methods of care.

"Doctors are always in a hurry," said one e-patient who participated in the study. "By researching online I can find information that fills in gaps in my knowledge, and allows me to ask better questions of the doctor. I also find out information that the doctor hasn’t shared with me, but it is important for me to understand my disease."

A study released last October by the Pew Research Center found that 10 million Americans use the Internet on a daily basis to learn about health, placing health searches at about the same level of popularity as paying bills online, reading blogs, or using the internet to look up a phone number or address.

Source: Healthcare IT News

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