A new approach to using social media in healthcare is being pioneered in the Netherlands, according to a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research . Focused on chronic disease care, this strategy breaks down the boundaries between online communities for doctors and patients to promote better care and empower patients to take better care of themselves.

The Dutch study examines three different types of online health communities (OHCs) in which patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) participate. All are used in association with ParkinsonNet, a professional network that includes physicians and allied health professionals who treat these patients.

In general, the authors define an OHC as "an Internet-based platform that unites groups of individuals with a shared goal or similar interest regardless of their whereabouts." That could include patients with a particular condition, a group of healthcare professionals with a shared medical interest, or both. Through an OHC, these people can interact via blogs, chats, forums and/or wikis.

The best-known example of such a community in the U.S. is PatientsLikeMe, which encompasses multiple forums for patients with various conditions. Physicians here have their own online communities, such as Sermo and KevinMD. Read full story on InformationWeek


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