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e-Patients (also known as Internet Patient, or Internet-savvy Patient) represent the new breed of informed health consumers, using 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."
Based on the current state of knowledge on the impact of e-Patients on the healthcare system and the quality of care received:
- 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.
Recent research about statistical data on e-Patients shows that the proportion of e-Patients in selected patient populations seem to be highest in the US and Canada. European countries seem to lag.
- Ferguson, Tom, Frydman, Gilles (May 15, 2004). The first generation of e-Patients (Editorial). BMJ 328: 1148-1149.
- Dan Hoch, Tom Ferguson (August 2005). What I've Learned from E-Patients. PLoS medicine 2 (8). PMID 16060721.
- Cees MJ van Woerkum (01 Apr 2003). The Internet and primary care physicians: coping with different expectations. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 77 (4).
- Podiatry Online: Accommodating the Internet-Savvy Patient
- Susannah Fox, Pew Internet & American Life Project. Today’s E-Patients: Hunters and Gatherers of Health Information Online.