For my first week’s post, I was planning on writing about the effect of technology on a hospital stay. But as I was doing some research, I came across an interesting term called E-Health. It has a broad range of meaning, but for our purpose we’ll define it as anything having to do with healthcare and it led me to ask this question: How does the internet affect people’s health? And no, I’m not talking about how the internet affects obesity and quality of life- everyone knows that amount of time spent in front of the computer (or the television for that matter) is related to how healthy a person is. I’m talking about the information and tools available online that deal with health and wellness and how people use them (and if there are more positives than negatives).
There are hundreds of websites out there that offer online fitness programs. All you have to do is enter some simple information: your height, weight, age, activity level, how much weight you would like to gain/lose, and any specific body part you’d like to target. A program is then generated specifically for you and your body type; many websites also give meal plans as well. It’s like your own personal trainer – for free! When such information is available that quickly and easily, people are more likely to use it. Social media websites such as Pinterest also provide an outlet for people to post progress and get feedback from others. This article on the New York Times website states a good point: constant feedback can act as a pretty strong incentive for people to change their eating habits and lifestyle.
Next, let’s tackle something that is a negative aspect, but in some cases could also be a positive: self diagnosis. I’ll use myself as an example. This morning when I woke up, I wasn’t really feeling well. I know it’s just a cold, but one of the symptoms I’m experiencing is swollen lymph nodes in my neck. I googled swollen lymph nodes and these are all links to to some of the sites that came up as results – WebMd, Emedicinehealth,and Mayoclinic. It is common for my lymph nodes to swell whenever I get a cold, so none of the information I see alarms me. However, for someone who doesn’t know this, reading all of the possible things that cause swollen lymph nodes could seriously alarm someone. I would be very interested to know how many people come in the ER thinking they are extremely sick because of something they read online. Self diagnosis could be a good thing however, in the rare cases when there is actually something wrong. A website like Web Md could help save someone’s life who had maybe only one symptom, and went to go get checked out because of something he or she saw online.
While we did not delve very deep into this topic, it would be foolish to say that the negatives of E-Health outweigh the positives. Anything that helps people become more informed and educated is a good thing. Only time will tell how the concept of E-Health will change the way people think about their health and health care.