How Safe Are Global Community Health Groups?

Online global health communities are seen as a meeting point for people with similar medical symptoms, allowing them to consult with one another, to learn from and to share their experiences with others. But how dangerous are these online health communities? What influences do these health communities have on people with serious medical symptoms?

Online health communities have been created by savvy medical bloggers, doctors, community lobby groups, or have simply been created from existing social networking sites such as Facebook which contains it’s own professional and amateur health community groups. Are these groups taken seriously, or are they seen as another pop up community that will soon come to an end?

Social networks seen in the real world can be good for people’s health. However, constant warnings are being communicated on the aging medical information found on the internet, and not to mention the importance of avoiding dishonest people who consider themselves as ‘specialists’ consulting others via online forums.

So, how safe are these medical social networking sites? Can sitting at a computer really have health benefits? Not for your weight, or at times sanity, but it is a way of the future so we should try to get it right.

The real benefits…

While medical social networking is a niche market, what are the real impacts on people’s daily lives?

Social networking sites with health communities provide a good source of information, as well as psychological and social support by others within the support network. Doctors and medical practitioners, who are also involved in the sites, combined, may improve the health outcomes. Research proves that people suffering with diseases such as psoriasis or eczema and who were using online health community groups, did improve their perceived quality of life. Even though their psoriasis or eczema showed limited improvement; via online support, talking to like-minded people who understand, their perceived quality of life was significantly improved.

The choice…

People need to be made aware of the consequences of sharing information online. It is up to the individual to share personal medical information that may identify them in the real world. Individuals have the ability to share or prevent their details online, restricting accessibility to others. It is up to the individual to remember that online advice is no stand-alone center of information on their medical symptoms. And of course, naturally it’s up to the individual to weigh up the health benefits of simply switching off the screen and taking time to relax and breath the fresh air.