People with multiple sclerosis are techno savvy
A survey of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) in Germany has found that over 90% own/have access to a computer, search the Internet and own a cell phone (Haase and colleagues. Mult Scler 2013; epublished February 6, 2013). Over a thousand people participated in the survey, which was handed out at MS clinics in 2009-2010. Most respondents were female (71%) and the average age was 41 years.
In any given week, 88% said they used a computer at least once, 87% said they browsed the Internet, 85% said they used their cell phone and 82% sent/received emails. About 42% said they looked for information about MS on the Internet. Less popular forms of connectivity were text-based chat (13%) and video chat (8%).
About 12-18% said they rarely or never used a computer, browsed the Internet, emailed or used a cell phone.
The reason for the survey was to determine if e-communications could be used in the future to hook people up to electronic health records or to improve links with MS clinics.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently found that up to two-thirds of people in the US search the Internet for health information (Fox & Jones, 2009. Free full text at www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2009/PIP_Health_2009.pdf). Northern European countries have a higher proportion of people – about 75% – who browse for health information. Searching for health information on the Internet is less common in southern European countries such as Greece (23%) and Portugal (30%) (Andreassen and colleagues. BMC Public Health;2007;7:53; free full text at www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/7/53).
Among people with MS, one study found that 82% looked for online health information before they were diagnosed, but only one-third used this information to ask their doctor questions (Hay and colleagues. Neurologist 2008;14:374-381).
A study in Israel found that 63% of people with MS searched the Internet for MS information (Lejbkowicz and colleagues. Mult Scler Int 2010; 2010: 640749; free full text at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3196922/). The main reasons for the Internet searches were to understand MS, obtain information about treatments, read research news, and to understand how MS drugs worked.
While some have questioned the value of Internet-based health information, several studies have indicated that being better informed about MS can help people cope with the disease, adapt to living with MS and feel more empowered in making decisions about treatment – which is becoming increasingly important (and complex) with the proliferation of new therapies (Lode and colleagues. Mult Scler 2007;13:792-799; Klauer and colleagues. J Neurol 2008;255:87-92).
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