Definitions

carol e. heiss

E-Patient

e-Patients (also known as Internet Patient, or Internet-savvy Patient) are health consumers who use the Internet to gather information about a medical condition of particular interest to them. The term encompasses both those who seek online guidance for their own ailments and the friends and family members (e-Caregivers) who go online on their behalf. e-Patients report two effects of their online health research: "better health information and services, and different (but not always better) relationships with their doctors."

e-patients are increasingly active in their care and are demonstrating the power of the Participatory Medicine model of care. They are equipped, enabled, empowered, engaged, equals, emancipated and experts.

  • Equipped with the skills to manage their own condition.
  • Enabled to make choices about self-care and those choices are respected.
  • Empowered
  • Engaged patients are engaged in their own care
  • Equals in their partnerships with the various physicians involved in their care
  • Emancipated
  • Expert patients can improve their self-rated health status, cope better with fatigue and other generic features of chronic disease such as role limitation, and reduce disability and their dependence on hospital care.

Based on the current state of knowledge on the impact of e-Patients on the healthcare system and the quality of care received:

  • A growing number of people say the internet has played a crucial or important role as they helped another person cope with a major illness.
  • Since the advent of the Internet, many clinicians have underestimated the benefits and overestimated the risks of online health resources for patients.
  • Medical online support groups have become an important healthcare resource.
  • The net friendliness of clinicians and provider organizations—as rated by the e-patients they serve—is becoming an important new aspect of healthcare quality.
  • This is one the most important cultural medical revolution of the past century, mediated and driven by technology.
  • The impact of the e-Patient cannot be fully understood and appreciated in the context of pre-internet medical constructs. Research must combine expertise from specialties that are not used to work together.

The proportion of e-Patients in selected patient populations seem to be highest in the US and Canada. European countries seem to lag.

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