E-patients, Cyberchondriacs, and Why We Should Stop Calling Names – European Perspective

On August 30, 2010, Susannah Fox posted E-patients, Cyberchondriacs, and Why We Should Stop Calling Names starting a discussion about names. I think the discussion could be summarised in two main trends.

On the one hand, e-patients name is still useful as a brand to spread the message of individuals utilising the Internet for health purposes. Therefore, using the Internet for seeking health information on injury, disease, nutrition, improving health, etc could be consider as a “proxy” to understand the diffusion of e-patients phenomenon or normalization and routinization of technological resourcefulness, mentioned by Carl May. Susannah Fox has been analysing data from USA since 2000. It looks like that the use of the Internet for health in this country has reached a “saturation” point among Internet users, however non-Internet users and minorities, mentioned by Gilles Frydman, are still far away from this saturation point. As a part of this digital divide in Health, it is different to engage young or elderly populations. For the first group, talk about e-patient does not make any sense because, in plain English, they are digital natives while for elderly population is totally different. However, digital natives will be the patients of the near future.

To tackle the situation in Europe I have collected some data from Eurostat checking Information society statistics based on the surveys on ICT usage in enterprises and households. They have gathered the following question “I have used Internet, in the last 3 months, for seeking health information on injury, disease, nutrition, improving health, etc.)”. I have developed charts of European countries and of EU 15, EU 25 and EU 27 for ‘% of individuals’ and ‘% of individuals who used Internet in the last 3 months’. All charts revealed a positive trend but Europe is still behind USA, even the penetration of broadband in Europe is bigger than in USA.

Click on the image below to enlarge the chart to full viewing size

On the other hand, we have to realise that this proxy does not tackle the complexity of this phenomenon and its relationships with other variables, including digital and non-digital aspects of individuals daily live. Therefore, e-patient name could be considered as an inhibitor of this complexity and it does not help us to go deeper in our analysis.  I guess we may have to find a balance between get bored spreading the message and get excited about deeper analysis.

Austria AT
Belgium BE
Bulgaria BG
Cyprus CY
Czech Republic CZ
Germany DE
Denmark DK
Estonia EE
Greece EL
Spain ES
Finland FI
France FR
Croatia HR
Hungary HU
Ireland IE
Iceland IS
Italy IT
Lithuania LT
Luxembourg LU
Latvia LV
Macedonia MK
Malta MT
Netherlands NL
Norway NO
Poland PL
Portugal PT
Romania RO
Sweden SE
Slovenia SI
Slovakia SK
Turkey TR
United Kingdom UK
EU (15 countries) EU15
EU (25 countries) EU25
EU (27 countries) EU27

9 thoughts on “E-patients, Cyberchondriacs, and Why We Should Stop Calling Names – European Perspective

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention ICTconsequences » Blog Archive » E-patients, Cyberchondriacs, and Why We Should Stop Calling Names - European Perspective -- Topsy.com

  2. Susannah Fox

    Thank you so much for posting this data.

    My research funding is restricted to the U.S., but of course I am interested in learning about the rest of the world and taking it into account when I talk about the impact of the internet on health and health care. I often assume that people know that I only study the U.S. but I shouldn’t. There are not many of us researching in this field and we have a responsibility to each other to set our findings in context.

    For those who, like me, are not familiar with all the country abbreviations, I found this list:

    http://www.europeancuisines.com/Europe-European-Two-Letter-Country-Code-Abbreviations

  3. Daniel Ghinn

    Thanks Francisco, this is important data for anybody who wants an international perspective from which to develop a global healthcare engagement strategy.

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  5. Denise Silber

    Hello Francisco. Thanks for all the work!

    Between 2000 and 2010, Europe has made a tremendous move forward in internet penetration thanks to the broadband packages, which no one would have predicted, and there are some northern countries with higher penetration than the US.

    I would be interested in a graph comparing your figures on most recent % use of internet for health and % penetration of internet per country…perhaps from internetworldstats.com

    Of course, another variable of interest in this are women healthcare managers, taking the lead for their family….and so on.

    Anyway, thanks again! Denise

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  7. Francisco Lupiáñez-Villanueva

    Thank you all for comment.

    Denise, I’m working with variables related to Health and the Internet from Eurostat as a primary source. I can not use internetworldstats.com because it is sencondary data from many different sources and methodologies so it will be difficult to compare and analyse the results.

  8. Francis Namouk

    Thanks Francisco! Very helpful information. Would love to know more about patient/carer online engagement in the EU. Agree with Denise more targeted stats would be great! Great work… look forward to following your research. Francis!

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