Expert and experiential knowledge in the same place: Patients' experiences with online communities connecting patients and health professionals
Patient Education and Counseling , Volume 95 - Issue 2 p. 265- 270
Objective: To explore patients' experiences with online health communities in which both physicians and patients participate (i.e. patient-to-doctor or 'P2D' communities). Methods: A qualitative content analysis was conducted, based on observations in five P2D communities ranging from 8 to 21 months, and semi-structured interviews (N= 17) with patients. Results: Patients consider information from physicians and peers as two distinct sources, value both sources differently and appreciate accessing both in the same web space. According to respondents, physicians can provide 'reliable' and evidence-based information, while patients add experience-based information. Patients use this information for multiple purposes, including being informed about scientific research and personal reflection. Conclusion: Patients find P2D communities beneficial because they help patients to collect information from both medical experts and experiential experts in one place. Practice implications: Patients use P2D communities to perform medical, emotional and lifestyle activities. The presence of physicians in P2D communities may inadvertently suggest that the quality of information used for the activities, is controlled. When information is not officially being checked, this should be stated explicitly on the website and supplemented with a statement that information is only indicative and that patients should at all times contact their own physicians.