A new commentary from Susannah Fox explores the question: How closely do online healthcare information seekers reflect their offline counterparts?

As a research organization that studies how people use technology, we do our best to stay on top of the many (and ever-changing) popular online services that can help share our research with various online communities (*ahem, Tumblr*). 

We’re sure this list will evolve over time, but at the moment here’s your handy guide to the best ways to get in touch or keep up with our work on the web.

Sachin Jain and John Rother’s JAMA commentary, “Are Patients Knights, Knaves, or Pawns?” is an article that begs to be shared.  The first time I read it I had to stand up, I was so excited — how can I design a survey to capture these questions?! was my first thought. My second thought was how soon can I post this online and get the debate rolling?

Over at the e-patients.net blog, Susannah Fox asks: If 16% of internet users say they have looked for information about immunizations or vaccinations online, what are they finding in those searches? How do they judge the quality of information they find? More broadly, does the benefit of greater access to information outweigh the costs?

Associate director Susannah Fox wonders: Is “peer-to-peer healthcare" an idea whose time has come? In this new commentary, Susannah examines evidence and recent examples. Join the discussion at e-patients.net.

Commentary: Peer-to-peer healthcare on NPR

by Susannah Fox

To me, there are two types of breaking news in health care: the macro and the micro.

Macro health news breaks when there is a natural disaster, a scientific breakthrough, or a new twist in a policy debate (see: “ACOs”). I read up on the facts and try to make sense of the latest turn of events, but usually from a comfortable distance.

Micro health news breaks when a loved one gets a serious diagnosis. Then I follow the unfolding health care story with intensity and I care more about the outcome.

Nancy Shute of NPR pulled off a nice trick when she reported on how one online community swarmed to the rescue of a woman who was recently diagnosed with a rare condition. The story grabbed my attention with micro intensity but was able to make a macro point: “Web Communities Help Patients With Rare Diseases.” By the end of it, it mattered to me that one woman’s kidney was saved thanks to a Facebook group. I bet it mattered to a lot of listeners, not just because it was a good story, but because it resonates with their own experiences. Pew Internet’s research shows that 1 in 4 internet users living with chronic disease go online to find other people with similar health concerns. The report Peer-to-peer Healthcare also chronicled how those connections can make all the difference in the world, especially among people living with rare disease.