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Growing Number Of Patients Turn To Internet For Health Information

Armen Hareyan's picture

A growing number of people with chronic or serious illnesses are going online to research their health problems, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. According to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project,about 51% of people with a disability or chronic illness use theInternet, compared with 74% of the general population, but once peoplewith illnesses get online, they become more frequent users.

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Thestudy also found that about three-quarters of so-called "e-patients"said information they found online affected their treatment decision,and nearly 69% said information found online led them to ask theirphysicians new questions or get a second opinion. However, according tothe study, 67% of e-patients said they do not always check the sourceor date of online information.

Susannah Fox, associatedirector of the Pew project, said the health care industry used todiscouraged patients from doing online research, but now medicalorganizations are launching their own Web sites and steering peopletoward credible online health information.

Kathleen Toomey, an oncologist and medical director of the Steeplechase Cancer Centerin Somerville, N.J., said although patients might be doing some of theresearch, doctors still must put information into perspective. "Our jobnow is to make sure it's in a form they can understand and digest," shesaid. "They still need that one-on-one. It still takes a village ofnurses, doctors and dietitians to educate our patients" (Heyboer,Minneapolis Star Tribune, 10/17).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.