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Internet Seen as a Determinant in How Patients Govern Their Health

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According to a study published this week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, it was found that patients who use the Internet more often than those who don’t are highly likely to involve themselves in patient-centered healthcare efforts and participate in their own care.

For the study, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Florida and the University of Maryland monitored Internet usage of a series of patterns of 438 individuals. The study group was then asked two questions:internet health

1) Is there a significant relationship between Internet use frequency and the overall preferences for obtaining health information and decision-making autonomy?

2) Does the relationship between Internet use frequency and information and decision-making preferences differ with respect to seven different aspects of health conditions--diagnosis, treatment, laboratory testing, self-care, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), psychosocial aspect and healthcare providers?

Based on the subjects’ responses, researchers determine their answers will dictate how healthcare efforts are developed and improved in the coming years.

"When medical professionals attempt to gauge how much information to provide patients or try to decide how much they should involve patients in medical decision-making, they may be better off if they base their decisions on patients' Internet use frequency rather than age, per se," noted the study.

All 438 case-studies were split into two groups; as 226 university undergraduates with an average age of 20 made up one group, while 212 older adults with an average age of 72 made up the other. It was found that of the two groups, the younger group showed significantly more Internet usage than the older group.

Additionally, research published last week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research confirmed that online health communities were useful tools for addressing chronic care issues as the number of patients suffering from such diseases is gradually rising.

Further research also shows that patients with online access to their medical records and could exchange e-mails with physicians had more communication and active participation with their doctors and their healthcare than those who didn’t.

Researchers have been calling on healthcare providers to determine how best to allocate resources to online access services.

"Our findings suggest that the relationship between online access and utilization is more complex than the simple substitution of online for in-person care suggested by earlier studies," the researchers wrote.

It has been an arduous task of trying to get patients to use online access and equipping healthcare providers the essential tools that allow them to accomplish just that.

Accordingly, a recent study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, noted that the distinguished worth of online access is vital to the adoption of personal health records, an element that could string those patients’ rising use of clinical services together.

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