Online health information: risky business or consumer wonderland?

New media has opened the information doors for healthcare. A new concept of using search engines to Organize, track, monitor and secure medical information online has been introduced. Google has recently added a feature called Google Health to their internet based service. It enables consumers to store health information online, with features such as setting personal goals, tracking progress and personalizing your health needs with applications and devices.

This idea of a “self managing citizen” discussed by Lewis (2006, 523) explores how new media has significantly shifted the healthcare industry providing many opportunities but also challenges.  The internet offer’s targeted health information which is able to target consumers as an individualized DIY subject (Lewis 2006, 522). However with consumers having access to vast amounts of online health information can lead to mixed messages regarding health advice and wrong diagnosis. As Lewis (2006, 523) discusses the possibility of an epidemic of misinformation.

The question is who is responsible when something goes wrong? It is clear there has been a shift from public responsibility to now the individual (Leong 2011). As we incorporate medicine 2.0 (Leong 2011) into our digital worlds it is important to consider what Faith Lee states consumers are now the gatekeepers of their own personal health information.

Lee, Faith. 2011. “DIY health. Are we becoming our own doctors?” Faithchantal’s Blog. Accessed April 4, 2011. 

Leong, Susan. 2011. “KCB: 206 New media: week 6 lecture notes.” Accessed April 4, 2011.

Lewis, Tania. 2006. “Seeking health information on the internet: lifestyle choice or bad attack of cyberchondria?” Media, Culture and Society 28 (4): 521-539.

Shemissedhowhewouldkissher. 2011. “Just Breathe.” Image.  Accessed April 10, 2011.



Filed under digital age, Google, Health, lifestyle, media lifestyle, Medicine 2.0, Online identity, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Online health information: risky business or consumer wonderland?

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  5. When Leong asked us a few weeks ago to think about which brand we wished we identified with, Google was my pick. I own an Apple Macbook Pro and yet run an Android phone so that my Google calendar is always perfectly synced wherever I go. But I must admit, Google Health caught me by surprise, though I still haven’t entirely worked out why. Really, it’s just a convenient diary for keeping track of things (and don’t we need all the help we can get in remembering how to do our own lives these days…) without the glitz, glam and prying eyes of your 100s of Facebook friends…

    Maybe it’s just that I’ve watched too much House, but I can see where concerns of an ‘epidemic of misinformation’ come from. Maybe epidemic is too drastic a term, but the rise in self-diagnosis, especially from panicked parents convinced that their child has ADHD/autism/epilepsy/lupis (take your pick!), certainly has some red flags waving high.

  6. Yes I think the word epidemic does come with negative connotations. If you are going to use the internet for these purposes I think you just have to be smart about what you are going to use to avoid wrong diagnosis etc.. as there are definatey risks with using online information. As for Google Health at first I thought I would never hold and manage all my health information on here, but during the week I’ve been warming up tot the idea…. you have control over it not your doctor and you make personalised plans for yourself via this feature… who know’s we might all be using it sooner rather than later.

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