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Medscape J Med. 2008; 10(5): 113.
Published online May 9, 2008.
PMCID: PMC2438491

Icyou: How Social Media Is the New Resource for Online Health Information

Prerna Mona Khanna, MD, MPH, Medical Editor
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At this point, it really doesn't matter who invented the Internet. It's here and it's thriving, growing every day. Not only in volume of material, but in significance to us as decision makers. We must embrace it; after all, an educated consumer stands a better chance of seeking, accessing, and complying with treatment. And we must understand how its role has emerged in patient care.

According to the PEW Internet Project, in 2006, 80% of adult Internet users searched for at least 1 of 16 major health topics online. But what is new is that more and more of these health seekers are looking to share emotional support and experiences, such as labeling, depression, and distress, with other patients – not experts – through online social media or social networking.

www.Icyou.com is a shared video site. It's been in existence for barely 1 year, yet attracts thousands of users daily, users who are more interested in watching Aunt Jane explain her experience with chemotherapy while her IV is being adjusted (http://www.icyou.com/events/see-jane-heal-diary-one-womans-breast-cancer-diagnosis-treatment-and-recovery/see-jane-heal-9) than read an impersonal monograph authored by a male oncologist about the challenges of breast cancer treatment, or watching young mother Ayesha calmly recount the all-too-common tale of being told by the doctor, “Go home; everything is all right,” when in fact it wasn't (http://www.icyou.com/topics/pregnancy/ayesha-lone-retained-placenta-after-pregnancy).

We should be gleeful at this turn of events. Patients, who are probably going to surf the Internet anyway, should be encouraged to share healthcare experiences as an adjunct to therapy – hosting their own experiences online or learning from other patients. There is no substitute for learning from someone else who has gone through the same process. It can only help their care in the long run.

That's my opinion. I'm Dr. Mona Khanna, Medical Editor for Icyou.com.

Footnotes

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Readers are encouraged to respond to the author at ten.lop@annahkmp or to George Lundberg, MD, Editor in Chief of The Medscape Journal of Medicine, for the editor's eyes only or for possible publication as an actual Letter in the Medscape Journal via email: ten.epacsdem@grebdnulg


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