Many U.S. residents with chronic health issues are using the Internet to expand their support networks, particularly if their health condition is a rare disease, according to a recent report by the Pew Internet Project and the California HealthCare Foundation, Healthcare IT News reports. CHCF publishes iHealthbeat.
Researchers based the report on a national telephone survey of 3,001 adults. The report also included insights from an online survey of 2,156 members of the National Organization for Rare Disorders.
The report found that 18% of U.S. Internet users have gone online to connect with other individuals who have similar health issues. Among Internet users who have a chronic condition, 23% have used the Web to connect with others in similar situations (Merrill, Healthcare IT News, 2/28).
According to the report, Internet users said most health care-related interactions occur offline. When asked about the last time they experienced a health issue:
- 13% of Internet users said they had online contact with friends and family;
- 5% said they received online information, care or support from a health professional; and
- 5% said they interacted online with other patients (CBC News, 2/28).
Among respondents with rare diseases, a majority said they used the Internet to connect with others who have the same health condition.
Susannah Fox, author of the report and associate director of the Pew Internet Project, said the study demonstrates that "the Internet provides people access not only to information, but also to other people who share their interests" (Healthcare IT News, 2/28).