247827 Communicating the Experience of Illness through Patient Blogs

Monday, October 31, 2011: 3:30 PM

Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM , Health Communication Program, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Pamela Katz Ressler, MS, RN, HN-BC , Pain Research, Education and Policy Program, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Currently 13% of e-patients write a blog about their diagnosis and treatment, where e-patients refers to the 61% of US adults who use the web for health information. The number of patient bloggers is likely to grow with the popularity of blogs and other forms of social media and the increased use of blogs on public health, hospital, and media websites. Patient blogs range from New York Times journalist Dana Jennings blogging about his prostate cancer with hundreds of thousands of readers and hundreds of comments to a woman writing about her breast cancer with a small number of readers and few, if any, comments. In a qualitative preliminary survey, we found that individuals diagnosed with chronic illness who started and maintained a blog did so primarily to help others with the same diagnosis, communicate with family and friends, express feelings, and track the progression of the disease and treatment. Most never showed their doctor. All felt very committed to the process. These results led to a further study currently under way to investigate the benefits of health blogs for patients, their family, friends, other patients, and healthcare providers through surveys and interviews. Another goal is to understand if there are patients who would not otherwise consider it yet could benefit from a recommendation from their healthcare provider to start a blog. Finally we are analyzing patient blogs to determine what public health and healthcare professionals can learn from perusing these narratives of the experience of illness.

Learning Areas:
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify the motivations for patients who write a blog 2. Describe how blogging has provided a novel mechanism for patients to communicate and document their experience of illness

Keywords: Patient Perspective, Communication Technology

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present this research because I teach courses on the use of the web and social media for health communication and am a researcher in these areas
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.