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More and More Patients Researching Medical Ailments in Online Communities

E-Patients Explore Online Communities

Researching your health problems online can be a great way to educate yourself — or scare yourself silly. A whopping 97 percent of Fit readers 'fess up to doing some Internet sleuthing before heading to the doc. There's even a word for us: e-patients.

According to a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, about 20 percent of e-patients use social-networking and similar sites to chat with medical experts and other patients.

Of course, we're big fans of community around here as a place to share information and links and get a conversation going. To find out more about the online health community revolution,


Says Pew's Susannah Fox:

"They are posting their first-person accounts of treatments and side effects from medications. They are recording and posting those podcasts. They're tagging content. They are part of the conversation. And that, I think, is an indicator of where we could be going in terms of the future of participatory medicine."

In addition to connecting with fellow patients suffering from the same ailments, users are posting their health records online so they can track their test results, blood pressure, and other vital stats. All they're doing all this despite the fact that doctors are behind the times, with only about 17 percent reporting the use of online medical records.

When you're suffering from an ailment, it can be very reassuring to hear from other patients who've gone through the same thing; often, it calms me down and makes me realize I'm not alone. But do you see any danger in patients posting about their medical problems in online communities?

Meanwhile, don't forget to check out our FitSugar Community and join the conversation!

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