The Pew Internet & American Life Project has released its latest report on the Internet's impact on health and health care, "E-patients with a Disability or Chronic Disease."
The new survey data nails down what many people have long suspected -- people with chronic conditions are disproportionately offline, but once they are online, they are just as enthusiastic as other Internet users.
About a fifth of American adults say that a disability, handicap, or chronic disease keeps them from participating fully in work, school, housework, or other activities. Half of those living with a disability or chronic disease go online, compared to 74 percent of those who report no chronic conditions. Fully 86 percent of Internet users living with disability or chronic illness have looked online for information about at least one of 17 health topics, compared with 79 percent of Internet users with no chronic conditions.
Those with chronic conditions are more likely than other e-patients to report that their online searches affected treatment decisions, their interactions with their doctors, their ability to cope with their condition, and their dieting and fitness regimen.
After detailing their general online interests, the report focuses on how this special population uses the Internet to gather health information. Not surprisingly, once they are online, people with chronic conditions are avid e-patients.
The report also shows that e-patients with chronic conditions do not lack for information about their health concerns, but they are frustrated by the process of finding the right information at the moment they need it.