HealthCare Information Should Be Available Online
HealthCare Information Should Be Available Online
The increased internet usage inthe past decade has seen tremendous change in access to information.The health care sector has not been left behind in fact, it is amongthe leading beneficiaries of the internet information. Concerns havehowever been raised over safety and authenticity of health careinformation available to the public, the internet has been a veryuseful source of healthcare information and should be made availableabundantly.
The internet provides a varietyof information which the users can view, access and evaluate when inneed of information. Health care information is readily available invarious sites which are dedicated to educating the public on varioushealth issues. This information is usually available and can beaccessed by the user in the comfort of their home, office, vacationor on holiday. Regardless of geographic or physical barriers, usersare able to get this information, and use it to diagnose a problemand are able to take the necessary measures to resolve the problem,even without visiting a medical professional (McMullan,2006). As suchthere is need to make such information readily available online forindividuals in situations that require medical advice and cannotaccess it from health professionals.
The information online is usuallyfree of charge. Majority of people especially in the developingcountries continue struggling with burdening health care costs.Visiting a medical professional in such countries requireconsultation fee, which is not easily afforded by majority ofpopulation. However, with literacy levels slowly improving in thesecountries, and increased internet usage among the population throughdevices such as phones, PCs, Tablets or iPads. A parent or a relativefor instance is able to search for information online regardingcertain health problems of an elderly or a child or an ailingrelative and establish the health problem, and the possible remedy.
Online health care information isbroad and encompasses a wide range of aspects including thedefinition of a disease or a problem, the symptoms including earlysymptoms and advanced stage symptoms where applicable, possiblecauses, prevention and treatment options. As such, the user of suchinformation is able to sieve through the information and can make aninformed decision on the next step. The user may decide whether toseek medical advice, buy over the counter medication or use homeremedy depending on what information they receive from the internet.This can be useful and time saving. Besides, the knowledge acquiredabout a disease is usually broad and useful even in the future andcan help others especially on prevention. For example, people maylearn through the internet that, taking plenty of fluids and fruitswith vitamin C can help greatly in managing colds and flu,information that medical professionals may not include in theirprescription (Knapp,Madden, Wang, Sloyer & Shenkman, 2011).As such, the internet provides deep understanding of a health problemthat can go a long way in helping a person and even others inprevention or managing diseases.
Some medical cases requireemergency action. This action may not be available from a medicalexpert due to geographical, financial or logistical constraints.Having information online on health care matters can greatly savethese emergency situations. For example, a dislocation sufferedduring a hiking activity in the wild may be very traumatizing andpainful. People may not have prior experience with such a case, orknowledge regarding the same. However, with a tablet or a Smartphone,one can easily search for information on how to handle a dislocationor a fracture. The information accessed can assist in offering firstaid to the injured individual as the services of a medicalprofessional are being sought. Quick response can help prevent damageto the injured part and enhance recovery. If information was notreadily available most emergency cases could lead to complications oreven death. First aid remedies for some unexpected or uncommonproblems such as ingestion of certain chemicals are easily accessibleonline and can help save a life.
Besides providing specificinformation on a health problem, the internet provides various linksto other related problems which allow the user to establish whichinformation they are really interested in. This informs a person onthe health problem beforehand and it becomes easy to explain to amedical expert. One cannot have doubts about what they feel as theinformation online distinguishes information in clear manner (Murrayet al., 2003).Consequently, a person is able to get the right treatment from theirdoctor. It also saves time as the doctor carries out medicaldiagnosis on the probable problem, thanks to the prior knowledge ofthe patient. For instance, one is able to know the difference betweenpneumonia and lung cancer, through the internet and can go to thedoctor somehow sure of what their problem is.
In addition, once a person isdiagnosed with a certain disease, they are able to go online andsearch more on the disease. This provides them with broad know-howregarding the disease and they are able to deal with it. Going onlineto seek information also opens a patient to other people with suchproblems and they can offer support through online interaction inchatrooms like Facebook, Whassup and other platforms. Patients caneasily get online support from support groups such as the AmericanCancer Association, which provide support for cancer victims. Apartfrom the patient, the families of sick people are affected. Goingonline for the readily available information exposes the family orthe care givers to wide range of information that can help them dealwith the disease (Grol,Wensing, Eccles, & Davis, 2013).It offers divine understanding on a given issue in health, enablingpeople to cope.
Health information provides broadknowledge on public health issues. People learn so much about publichealth issues when they search for a certain health care problem.Issues such as communicable diseases and the way to prevent themincluding those which are prevented through immunization are easilylearned through the internet. Knapp,Madden, Wang, Sloyer & Shenkman (2011)indicates that, most mothers learn about their children’s healththrough the internet. The extent at which the information in theinternet is disseminated is incredible and cannot be compared topublic health campaigns carried out by the government and othernon-governmental organizations. A recent example for instance isEbola, which led the world to a panic. Most people were able to findso much information online regarding the disease including earlysymptoms, incubation period, how it’s transmitted and the way tostay safe. The internet became a useful tool to millions of peoplewho could otherwise be in the dark, waiting for public healthcampaigns.
Various potential risks have beenpinpointed by opponents of making health care information readilyavailable online. They include arguments such as misdiagnoses,inaccurate information and unreliability of such information(Berland,2001). Whereas suchincidences are present, the significance of online health informationis paramount to the general wellness of the population. Better healthChannel, a website that provides an overview on the usage of onlinehealth care information provides a guideline for users to access thecredibility of online sites providing health care information. Toavoid ‘cyberquackery’ which is quite common, online users ofhealth care information need to ascertain the websites’ credibilitybefore using the information provided (Better Health Channel, 2014).In addition, it is important to know that, online information is nota substitute to see a doctor, but a way to enlighten oneself on agiven health problem.
Conclusively health careinformation is very useful to patients, their families as well as thegeneral public. The internet has made such information readilyavailable which has made understanding of various health issues areality. The availability of this information is useful in variousways including expanding one’s knowledge on a certain problem,helping those who cannot afford a doctor’s advice particularly inthe poor countries, getting a second opinion on a disease, gettingsupport as well as getting alternative remedies, and also inemergency situations. Although it may be misleading, it is useful andshould not be used as a substitute to a doctor. Accessing thecredibility of a health information website is key to avoidingcyberquackery. Ultimately, health information should be madeavailable online and in abundance to improve health access tomillions of people across the globe.
Berland, G.K., Elliott, M. N., Morales, L. S., Algazy, J. I., Kravitz, R. L.,Broder, M. S., … & McGlynn, E. A. (2001). Health information onthe Internet: accessibility, quality, and readability in English andSpanish. Jama,285(20),2612-2621.
Better Health Channel (2014).Health information and health products online. Retrieved September12, 2014 fromhttp://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Health_information_and_health_products_online.
Grol, R.,Wensing, M., Eccles, M., & Davis, D. (Eds.). (2013). Improvingpatient care: the implementation of change in health care.John Wiley & Sons.
Knapp, C.,Madden, V., Wang, H., Sloyer, P., & Shenkman, E. (2011). Internetuse and eHealth literacy of low-income parents whose children havespecial health care needs. Journalof medical Internet research,13(3).
McMullan, M.(2006). Patients using the Internet to obtain health information: howthis affects the patient–health professional relationship. Patienteducation and counseling,63(1),24-28.
Murray, E.,Lo, B., Pollack, L., Donelan, K., Catania, J., Lee, K., … &Turner, R. (2003). The impact of health information on the Interneton health care and the physician-patient relationship: national USsurvey among 1.050 US physicians. Journalof Medical Internet Research,5(3).