Patients who seek information online and discuss their healthcare treatment choices via email and on social media platforms feel better about their decisions, according to research published in JAMA Oncology.
Researchers analyzed a sample of 2,460 women recently diagnosed with breast cancer. They found 41 percent of the women responded to their diagnosis by discussing it through e-mail, text messages, Facebook, Twitter and online support groups, to determine the best treatment options and their therapeutic value.
The study found a relationship between those patients who used online communication the most and those who weighed their treatment decisions with more care as well as reported greater satisfaction after making that decision.
Researchers also found such communications came more often in the form of email or text messages (35 percent) compared to social media or online support groups, each of which comprised 12 percent of activity.
This was a lower percentage of social media users than researchers expected, according to lead author Lauren P. Wallner, Ph.D., assistant professor of general medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, particularly given breast cancer patients’ and survivors’ strong online presence.
"Women reported separate reasons for using each of these modalities. Email and texting were primarily to let people know they had been diagnosed," Wallner said in a study announcement. "They tended to use social media sites and web-based support groups to interact about treatment options and physician recommendations."
White and Asian-American women used online resources at about equal rates, at 46 percent and 43 percent, respectively. African-American and Hispanic women used them at a lower rate, and again were about even, at 35 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
"Women also reported using all of these outlets to deal with the negative emotions and stress around their breast cancer diagnosis," Waller said in the announcement. "They're using these communications to cope."
Lower-income patients are in particular need of online healthcare resources, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. Online forums can also potentially help hospitals engage these populations,