Joe Shapiro’s piece on patients turning to the internet was well done and interesting. Our thanks to Susannah Fox for her contribution to this article, and for her work on the survey about patients with chronic condititions who use the internet.

I particularly found Robert Hawkin’s statement interesting in this excerpt from the article: “You find contradictory information. You don’t know who to believe,” says Robert Hawkins of the University of Wisconsin. “It’s a very chaotic, tough world out there on the Internet on health.” Suzanne Pingree, Hawkins’ colleague at the University of Wisconsin, says the cancer patients were overwhelmed by all the information they found. “Part of the difficulty is how hard it is to get information on the Internet and be sure you can trust it,” Pingree says.

I have concluded from over 10 years of working directly online with patients (, as well as from comments from colleagues such as this, that a “guided” approach to patients’ use of the internet for health is preferable to having folks just go online and start reading web sites randomly. They are often confused and overwhelmed and, as noted above, often get incorrect or contradictory information.

If you are able to identify a trusted physician with whom you can correspond about this information, or who can recommend sources of information that are reliable, that is preferable.

More physicians are getting involved in corresponding with their patients via e mail, but this has been hampered by physicians who are ill prepared for online work, and by the absence of a compensation mechanism that makes sense to all concerned. Check with your own physician to see if he/she is willing to participate with you in e mail exchanges about your health. It won’t be long before physicians will need to do this, or else see their patients walk down the street to see someone who will!