Pew Research Center shows Internet’s affect on healthcare

The Pew Research Center tracked patient use of the Internet over the past 10 years, and according to a recent report, peer-to-peer sharing about healthcare is going to change how people make health decisions. Dr. Susannah Fox, associate director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, compares it to the way peer-to-peer file sharing changed the music business. People are now able to share advice and what they know about themselves.

Dr. Fox points out that people have always wanted to find and share health advice, and now they can do this “at Internet speed and at Internet scale.” And with widespread mobile use, people now can share and interact more easily more of the time instead of just seeking out information.

In the article about the findings from recent studies, she points out some interesting facts:

  • In 1995, 10 percent of adults had Internet access compared to 75% today, and 95% of teens.
  • 60% of people go online wirelessly with laptops, mobile, or tablets.
  • 48% of people look online wirelessly for information about doctors or health information.
  • One in five Americans have gone online to find people who share their health concerns. The number is one in four for people with a chronic illness.
  • One in four Internet users track weight, diet, exercise routines, or other health indicators with online tools.

But don’t worry, healthcare professionals are still the most valuable and valued resource. Nine out of 10 Americans say healthcare professionals are more useful than fellow patients, friends, and their families in getting a diagnosis. Google doesn’t replace a good physician—it just gives people a good opportunity to seek and share information, which they will always find ways to do.

So peer-to-peer healthcare is nothing to be worried about—which is good, since it’s inevitable in this Internet age. Kevin Pho of Kevin MD recommends that you help patients to find reputable information online. He points out that only a quarter of patients check the source of the information they read online. So his solution: “As physicians, we need to continue our efforts to get online, get social, and help patients find reputable health data that can potentially affect their health decisions.”

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