Monday, September 12, 2011

4 Ways That The Internet Has Changed Medicine

Author: Thomas Stone

The Internet has changed the way people interact with the world. The changes in the practices of medical patients provide a clear example of the profound effects of the increase in readily available information. Previously, patients had to rely solely on their doctors to provide them with any pertinent health information and had few options for obtaining second opinions or exploring alternate treatment options. Also, patients can now reach out to others across the world who have experienced similar illnesses, allowing them to form large support groups with people who understand their concerns and feelings.

Finding Doctors

The prevalence of the Internet makes it much easier for people to locate and connect with doctors specializing in their required area of care. Locating a doctor can be as easy as doing a Google search from an Internet-connected device, whether a laptop, desktop or smartphone. Though many doctors aren't currently connected to social networks, it is starting to become more popular and, if it picks up more momentum, will allow patients to develop stronger connections to their doctors and explore their physician's network. Further, finding doctors to provide a second opinion is much easier, even if that doctor is thousands of miles away. There are times where no travel will be necessary, as doctors can receive test results and provide an over-the-phone or email evaluation.

Exploring Treatment Options

Many doctors have a preferred method of treatment and are reluctant to suggest options they don't fully understand or support. The availability of information on the Internet allows patients to research alternate treatment options and discuss them with their doctor, giving them more choices when it comes to their illness. Proton therapy for cancer, for example, is an alternate treatment option few know about, but information on therapy centers and the science behind the process can be found via the Internet quickly.

Building Support

An incredibly important aspect of a patient's recovery is how well they deal with the stress and trials of their illness and treatment. Having a group of people who have gone through the same thing or are currently going through it, can be the difference between despair and courage. The Internet is home to many such support groups, allowing former and current cancer patients connect, share stories and offer advice and sympathy to others.

The Internet and Internet-connected mobile devices have opened up a whole new level of communication options for medical patients. People are no longer limited to their geographical area when attempting to find information about their illness or seeking out doctors for second or third opinions. Information about alternate treatment options and lists of institutions providing them can be found in just a few seconds and patients can easily become part of a support network for others sharing their illness. The connectivity the world is currently experiencing has made it easier than ever for people to educate themselves and connect with likeminded individuals, fostering a culture of sharing.

About the author:

Thomas Stone is a contributing author at Dose of My Own.

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