This paper discusses the emerging role of internet technology in the management of personal health care and the role of internet based illness discussion groups in promoting proactive and participatory patient roles. Use of internet technology has become a health information resource for most internet connected patients. Health web sites, message boards, listservs, and chat rooms are emerging as a virtual forum where patients discuss their health care issues and experiences with each other. This paper examines the extent to which patient participation in online health discussion groups were reported to be helpful in enhancing participatory patient roles in communicating with health care professionals. Data for the research was collected through an internet survey from 350 patients who were participating in online discussion groups for cancer patients. The majority of the sample reported that group participation encouraged them to take a more ‘proactive patient role’ in communicating with their health care providers. This paper proposes that the traditional pattern of doctor-patient communication is changing as a result of widespread use of internet by health care consumers. Further studies will need to address the importance of the utilization of internet technology in health care service research.
|Keywords:||Internet, Information, Communication, Patient, Physician, Health Care|
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
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