Friends around the web: shared pain is half the pain, shared joy is twice the joy!

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“The Static Web and its tools remain the most powerful for nonprofits: non-profit’s website is still a central part in the planning and execution of organization’s online communications,” – emphasizes H. Mansfield in her book Social Media for Social Good.

New development in social media and health experience signifies that digital innovations, emergence of social media platforms and mobile communication technologies are becoming an integral part of the “static” web. In recent years, static web is undergoing restructuring from “unidirectional into multidirectional communication” due to this shift in the online environment. (1).

The new web is focusing on engagement of people and these digital web extensions are important networking tools for public health professionals looking for ways to increase penetration of public health messages, bridging with public and establishing a dialog.

Health Information and the Internet 

  • 87% of all US adults use the Internet
  • 80% of internet users look for health and medical information online
  • Most popular 2015 web-sites:
    • WebMD – 80 million (estimated monthly visitors)
    • National Institute of Health – 55 million
    • Yahoo!Health – 50,5 million
    • MayoClinic – 30 million
    • MedicineNet – 25.5 million
    • This is 4x more visitors than in 2012!

We can conclude that public interest in getting information about health and health conditions is substantial and it is growing. Most striking finding of the national survey by Pew Research Center is the report how people’s networks are expanding to include online peers. When people need information about health issue, care or support, majority of them would turn to a health professional, and about 23% say they have gone online to find others with similar health concerns, as Pew Research Center reported in their Peer-to-peer Health Care study. When the issue involved more personal issues of how to cope with a health issue or get quick relief, then non-professionals were preferred by most patients. (2)

People use Internet to find same-minded communities and become centered around an issue that is important to them. Your doctor, your family, your friends and caregivers can provide you with the best support, comfort and advice. But nobody can understand your experience better then a person who experienced the same disability or chronic health issue.

A woman living with a blood disorder wrote in the online survey about her support group:

“We can say things to each other we can’t say to others. We joke about doctors and death. We cry when we need to. Together we are better informed. The support is powerful and empowering.”

That is why more and more health organizations are offering peer-to-peer mentoring programs on web:

Mental Health America 

National Kidney Foundation of Michigan

Patients Like Me 

Internet bridges people with similar health conditions, increases their access to healthcare professionals, allows people to help others and find help for themselves.  Studies have shown that the more help someone receives, the more likely they will help someone else. (3)

While health professionals remain “the static”, traditional source of health information and help for most Americans, “peer-to-peer web healthcare” is becoming an important dimension of public health, social networking and emotional well-being for people living with chronic health condition.

References:

  1. Web 2.0 for Health Promotion: Reviewing the Current Evidence. American Journal of Public Health. January 2013, Vol 103, No1.
  2. Pew Research Center. Peer-to-peer HealthCare. http://www.pewinternet.org/2011/02/28/peer-to-peer-health-care-2/
  3. “Building a Research Agenda for Participatory Medicine,” by Susannah Fox (e-patients.net: October 11, 2010). Available at: http://e-patients.net/archives/2010/10/building-a-research-agenda-for-participatory-medicine.html
  4. Trend Data (Adults). Washington, DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project, January 2014. http://www.pewinternet.org/data-trend/internet-use/internet-use-over-time/
  5. Fox S. Health Topics. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project. http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/HealthTopics.aspx
  6. eBizMBA. Top 15 Most Popular Health Websites, Aug 2015 http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/health-websites
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4 thoughts on “Friends around the web: shared pain is half the pain, shared joy is twice the joy!

  1. Great use of website references and making the point about huge website presence coupled with the use of internet medical reference sites. You effectively tie in classroom material and public health issues. Personally, I find the WebMD site and other MD mediated sites messages to be carefully controlled and slanted toward MD referrals. Most people are looking to find medical/health solutions that WebMD cannot provide. I also find that the site is takes great pains to look relevant without giving medical advice or really considering holistic or energetic approaches as treatment solutions.

    People may find some comfort in the “MD” brand but I think there is a demand for community level, interactive approaches like PatientsLikeMe to solving health issues. People are less concerned about HIPAA than government officials or organizations think. The downside to the interactive medicine format is that people may use the site to “kvetch” or because they are lonely. While this may seem annoying, it also may be good medicine.

  2. I think the new trend in online patient support networks is unbelievably exciting but I think the big elephant in the room here is patient privacy. With all the hacking scandals lately (China, Russia, Ashley Madison, celebrity iClouds etc), how can we ensure patient information receives the utmost protection? Just food for thought, may be a a great topic for a future thoughtful blog post 😉

  3. Interesting post about how people have utilized the web to understand health conditions and participate in online communities with people going through similar experiences. One thing I am interested in knowing your thoughts on are how people are seeking and utilizing health information from places like WebMD. For example, I remember an experience where I looked on WebMD, put in my symptoms, and next thing I knew they said the most likely result was that I had cancer. While that was far from true, it was just a sinus infection, it still makes me think of how these sites are structured. I think a lot of people lean on these sites for “self-diagnosing” when an interaction with an actual health professional is needed.

  4. It’s absolutely remarkable that 87% of U.S. adults use the internet and that 80% utilize it for health related information. This statistic perfectly illustrates the major role the internet should have on health promotion. It was an excellent use of a statistic which helped prove your point. It terms of your blog structure, it was good that you showed the most popular websites as well has how much traffic has increased at these sites. With information like this I find it hard to believe that health officials aren’t fully investing more resources into the web and the promotion of health.

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