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Disease-Related Internet Use Expected to Increase

Biggest leap will be contacting health-care providers online

THURSDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Chronically ill adult patients are frequent users of the Internet to get information about their condition and seek mutual support, and they say they expect to increase their use in the future to contact their care providers, according to a study in the January issue of the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Wim van Lankveld, Ph.D., of Sint Maartenskliniek in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and colleagues analyzed data from 220 patients, including 147 with a rheumatic condition, 15 with chronic heart disease, 20 with lung or endocrine diseases and 38 with other somatic diseases. The patients completed online questionnaires, which covered three functions: information seeking; mutual support; and contact with care providers.

Internet use was widespread among the patients surveyed and the most common use was to gather information about the disease and treatment options. The frequency of use for each function was independent of other functions and was independent of disease type. In future, patients expect the biggest increase in use to be for contacting their care providers.

"New methods need to be developed to use the Internet for communication between patients and their health care providers. Internet-based patient education and support interventions tailored to the patients' needs may have additional value above current methods of communication," the authors conclude.

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