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Monday, November 8, 2010

Can The Internet Make Us Healthier?

When you get sick, is your first stop Google or WebMD? According to a survey by Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, 61 percent of Americans turn to the web for online medical advice and information. And 20 percent of Americans have posted information about their health conditions at online forums. And new companies are popping up everyday that are connecting people via online communities so they can do everything from lose weight to start trials for new medications. We speak to Susannah Fox, associate director of digital strategy at Pew Internet and Mike Zani, CEO of Shape Up The Nation.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Mary

    Just recently PatientsLikeMe was “scraped” for information by unauthorized data harvesters:


    Watch out.

  • Dan

    I went to my doctor a few times about a large Plantar wart that was driving me crazy. After a few treatments on my foot, the doctor gave up and told me to live with it. I looked around online for methods that people used and finally found a treatment that worked. I am wart free and happy thanks to online info (and no thanks to my doctor). (For anyone that wants to know, Compound W works on plantar warts…though it may take months of treatment)

  • David Henry

    I diagnosed my friend who was too poor to afford health insurance with gout using web MD. He made lifestyle changes also from Web MD is and is feeling much better.

  • Amber Seidel

    My son has a newly diagnosable chronic illness called EE. When we were first given the diagnosis, his doctor informed us that we he would call us in a week to discuss what options after we had spent some time researching it on the internet. So our doctor encourages us to go online first, so he can both build one what we have learned and correct any misinformation. We have found great support for our son’s diagnosis online.

  • Barry Smith in Nashville

    The internet does help make us healthier, but there is SO much information out there it can be difficult to weed through it all. You can go to WEB MD with a headache, and the next thing you know it suggests you have a tumor! (no kidding, give it a try)

    So my suggestion is be careful with it. When I was diagnosed with epididimitis this summer, my doctor encouraged me to use the internet to help learn about it.

    So in my opinion, do not try to diagnose your self, but use it as an added tool!


  • BHA

    Google is a great research tool – medical or otherwise. Frequently it is important to do an “Advanced” Search to get only recent updates as things ‘live’ forever on the web.

    Certainly the internet is full of questionable information but there is a lot of good stuff. My wife was able to diagnose my shingles based on the rash and other symptoms in < 5 minutes. It was missed by the doctor 2 days earlier because the rash hadn't yet shown up even though further Web investigation on my part showed that my other symptoms were classic Shingles.

    We have many other web based medical research stories in our family. You can certainly get a lot of information about what you might/do have and eliminate things you DON'T have.

  • http://picasaweb.google.com/ericred13/0_portfolio_480 eric

    I do get a lot of generous benefit from health related websites. I love it.

    Eric ~

    P.S. You would be 200% to 400% more successful in getting input on this subject, if you made it MORE easy to find and respond.

  • Juan Lopez

    Two years ago I developed a skin infection. I scheduled an appointment with my physician but while I waited for my appointment to come, I went online and found that based on the symptoms I had an infection known as Molluscum Contagiosum. I went to my appointment and the doctor performed a biopsy and sent it to the lab. A couple of days later, he called me to confirm that I had Molluscum Contagiosum for which he prescribed an ointment forewarning that spite it’s $130 cost, it was not very effective and in fact no medication would help but within a few months/years it would go away on its own. I remembered that I had seen some remedies online and figured it would not hurt to try an alternate remedy. A few drops of cider vinegar and 24 hours later my infection was completely GONE! The infection has not returns since then.

  • Marie Murrell

    My daughter has hypoplastic left heart syndrome, heterotaxy and polysplenia and I have spend the last 10 years participating in online support groups. It enables me to keep up on the latest treatment and to know what care medical centers of excellence around the country are providing. I am also able to help others who are seeking medical care for their children, since I’m an “veteran”–my daughter is 13. The hundreds of members of these groups have one goal in common: keeping our children alive and healthy. The information is almost always accurate, and when it’s not, there will be dozens of people correcting the mistakes. If these support groups were not in existence, we would have to rely on medical facilities for accurate information; and, sadly, some facilities are inadequate and are giving advice 15 years out of date.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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