There is no doubt that the Internet has changed the world. Some say for the better, and others might disagree, but regardless, millions of people access the Internet on a daily basis for everything from social networking to shopping.
The number of Internet users worldwide has grown an estimated 400% over the past decade with figures close to 2 billion.
A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project shows that millions of Americans young and old are using the Internet to access health information. Half of the searching is done for someone else, like a sick friend or a loved one.
The author of the study, Susannah Fox, explains, “When someone gets sick, people aren’t just bringing flowers or a hot dish, because it’s not always the patients that can handle the research. It’s the friends and family who surround them who are able to do that research on their behalf.”When it comes to health care, the Internet can be used in a number of ways.
According to the survey, which was based on telephone interviews of 3,001 adults in the United States, 34% of Internet users read about other patients’ health care experiences in forums, online news and blogs. Some popular topics in these forums include weight-loss surgery, infertility (IVF), cancer, and even plastic surgery.
16% of Internet users go online to check out reviews of doctors and hospitals, and 27% of users have used applications and websites to track their personal health information, like weight loss goals, ovulation calendars for infertility treatments, exercise and diet regimens, and much more.
With all of the medical information available on the web today, patients should take extra care to make sure their sources are trusted.
“You find contradictory information. You don’t know who to believe. It’s a very chaotic, tough world out there on the Internet on health,” Robert Hawkins of the University of Wisconsin told NPR.
As much as there is incorrect information floating all over the internet, many doctors have started to use the internet, and have found it to be a powerful tool to stay connected with patients, and to provide accurate healthcare information. Not to mention that the Internet mogul "Google" has taken efforts to improve the quality of the Internet itself. Google's new efforts referred to as the "Panda Effect" has set new restrictions for websites in the hopes to improve the quality of the content on the Internet.
Patients will continue to go online to research everything from breast implants, to hair transplantation, to in-vitro fertilization (IVF), and doctors want to know about it.
Susannah Fox explains, “Things have really changed in the last seven years. A 2005 study by the National Cancer Institute found that most doctors want to hear from patients about the research that they’re doing online. However, e-patients tell us that they don’t always talk to a doctor about what they find online. They’re nervous about challenging a doctor.”
But most doctors agree, patients shouldn’t be nervous. It doesn’t matter if a patient is struggling with infertility or cancer, more information allows for the doctor and patient to make the best decision about moving forward with treatment plans.
The Internet allows patients to have more of a partnership with their doctor, and puts them more in control of their health; even when they are dealing with a medical issue that is completely out of their hands.
Doctors who have taken a proactive approach to the Internet, often find that reaching out to patients through social media and forums has given them a lot of positive effects.
Patients lend their experiences, advice and friendship to one another, which really helps with the process of dealing with health problems. Patients are able to be open and honest on forums, and many people find this extremely beneficial.
Although the Internet is a top resource for those who are dealing with health issues, the study states that doctors and other health care experts are still considered the most trusted information source for patients.For trusted information about plastic surgery, infertility (IVF), weight-loss, and more, visit our website today!
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.