In politics and in health care, participation matters as much as access.

The passion we saw in the political campaigns last year is matched by the passion we see when someone is trying to save a life, find a better treatment, or just manage the health of a loved one. What are you doing in your work to harness that passion?

Pew Internet Project data is often used to benchmark where we are with tech adoption in the U.S.  Here is where we stand:

79% of adult Americans have access to the internet.

63% of adults have broadband internet connections at home.

56% of adults access the internet wirelessly on some device, such as a laptop, cell phone, MP3 player, or game console. When we include mobile access in our definition of the internet user population, the differences between African American adults and white adults disappear.

But where do we stand in terms of participation?

60% of e-patients (internet users who go online for health information) have engaged in some sort of social media related to health and health care, mostly consuming information created by other people, not posting their own thoughts.

42% of all adults say they or someone they know has been helped by following medical advice or health information found on the internet. That’s an increase from 2006 when 25% of all adults said that.

We ask the opposite question, but find it is a flat-liner: 3% of e-patients say they or someone they know has been harmed by following medical advice or health information found on the internet, a number that has remained stable since 2006.

However, while mobile adoption is creating greater access and participation among African American adults, for example, there are other groups who remain disproportionately offline, such as people living with chronic disease or disability. They may be missing out on opportunities, but just as importantly, we are missing their voices in the conversation.

As the Society for Participatory Medicine moves forward, these twin issues of access and participation should be central to the conversation.

Again, what are you doing in your work to harness the passion of patients and caregivers? How are you going to help bridge the access gap, but even more importantly, the participation gap?

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