Report Highlights Recent Health Care News
Summaries of several recentdevelopments related to health care and the Internet appear below.
- Internet research: An increased number of U.S. patients have begun to use the Internet to conduct research on medical conditions, the Fargo Forum reports. According to the Forum, some patients "try to self-diagnose by plugging in symptoms like 'bumpy rash' or 'migraine' into a search engine," and others "turn to Web sites for additional information on an illness and its treatments." As the "use of online health information becomes more common ... it changes the role of both patients and health care providers," the Forum reports (Hemme-Froslie, Fargo Forum, 2/4).
- Online discussion groups: Groups "whose members meet regularly in person ... are a familiar source of assistance for people with common disorders," but, with the "advent of the Internet, online discussion groups, message boards and patient blogs" have become more popular and "can be reached via the Web sites of many disease advocacy organizations," the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, "until recently, people with disorders that are rare have often had difficulty connecting with others who suffer from the same condition." Online discussion groups "can ease the sense of isolation" for patients and "smooth the path to learning how to live with their disease," the Post reports (Okie, Washington Post, 2/5).
- Personal health records: The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has funded demonstration projects in four states -- California, Georgia, Iowa and Virginia -- to measure the effect impact of PHRs on patient outcomes, the AP/Boston Globe reports. For the projects, researchers will randomly assign patients to use PHRs or not and will examine whether use of the records leads to improvements in the management of chronic diseases, use of cancer screenings and immunizations, and adherence to medication regimens. Peggy Wagner of the Medical College of Georgia, who leads one of the projects, said, "As patients, we don't think of ourselves as the person driving the health care," but PHRs might change "what it means to be a patient" (Neergaard, AP/Boston Globe, 2/4).
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