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Searching for Healthcare: How Online Communities are Changing the Face of Medicine

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The New York Times has a great article about using the internet for information on medical conditions, including how search is involved in the process. As you know, results can change just by adding a keyword to the phrase you're already searching for.

Search for a condition and add the word community, for example, and you suddenly have access to patients dealing with the same issues, according to Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

I can personally attest to the power of the internet, especially the ability to communicate and share experiences with other patients. When I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer in 2003, the internet became the authority on my care. Because the cancer affects so few people, doctors with little experience in seeing patients with thyroid cancer can be misinformed on how to treat it.

Thankfully, I found an online community that helped me through every step of the process. I was able to find doctors that knew thyroid cancer and could adequately treat me. My experience greatly improved as the result of "meeting" other patients. (I did, also, eventually meet several in person as well.)

As much as social networking can sometimes get a bad rap for being an untamed jungle of wild party pictures and obscene comments, we can't forget the power of online communities and their role in so many important aspects of daily life. From jobs to cancer treatment, social networking is impacting lives. And that's something to feel good about - and get involved in.

Is your company there yet? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Related Reading:
Microsoft Secures Search Ad Partnership with Rodale's Health Sites
Yahoo Says Searchers are Better Patients
Net Attracts Health-Seeking Surfers
Majority of Online Health-Related Queries Start on Search Engines

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