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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!

Join The Conversation
Spectra Spectra 7 years
I look up things online so I can be an informed patient. When I was too thin and stopped menstruating, I did a lot of research and found out that if you're too active and underfat, you lose your period. When I talked to my doctor about it, she tried to tell me I might be pregnant. I had to tell her that given my background, I had other ideas. She ran the appropriate tests and measured my body fat, which was too low. Once I cut back on my training and gained a few pounds, my periods came back. So yeah, I think it can be valuable, but it's no substitute for seeing a real doctor.
Allytta Allytta 7 years
haha this reminds me - i have soar throat and muscle ache now. so i thought i'd google it and see if it's laryngitis or more of a flu. and you know what first illness came up with these symptoms? anthrax. i'm not going it again
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
I don't post about my medical issues, but I research anything that might be wrong with me, and I have scared myself silly before.
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