By Catriona Mumuli
You wake up feeling ticklish in your throat, you try to shake it off and drink lots of warm water or the honey and lemon concoction. After a day, the sour throat still persists and instead of seeking a doctor’s appointment, you google your symptoms. Today, anyone with a digital device is able to access a variety of health information on-line; from a simple sour throat to the more grave issues like bronchitis and Asthma.
Everybody consumes and talks of e-health but not many people have come up with a clear definition of the term. In this digital era, it’s used to describe essentially everything related to computers and medicine. E-health was initially coined and used by business leaders and marketing teams rather than scholars. The private sector devised the term e-health with reference to other e-words” such as, e-business and e-commerce in an attempt to compress the viewed merger of electronic commerce to the health sector, and provide a possible identify that the internet was opening up in the health sector. For instance, to Intel e-health was a concerted effort embarked on by leaders in health care and hi-tech businesses to fully harness the benefits available through convergence of the internet and health care. (Eysenbach, 2001)
In the early 1990s, the internet had brought new opportunities and challenges to the traditional health care information technology industry; and the coining of e-health to address these issues seemed appropriate. In the academic environment, G Eysenbach defined e-health as “the connection of medical information, public health and business, delivered or enhanced through the internet and related technologies. He additional stated that e-health also encompassed a state of mind, a way of thinking, an attitude and a commitment for networked, global thinking to improve health care locally, regionally, and world-wide by using information and communication technology.”(Eysenbach, 2001)
With the digital era, where most individuals have a digital device, health information is often said to be one of the most searched content online. (Eysenbach, 2007)These claims have been mostly based on survey data, for instance the Pew Internet & American Life Report, which found that “80% of adult Internet users have searched for at least one of sixteen major health topics online. With such an online demand for heath information, medical practitioners have had to adapt to the changing times; social media is being embraced by more medical practitioners who use it to share health information and providing patient care.
Health information in relation to online platforms has seen drastic improvements with the recent advances in digital media where we have 4G, motion gaming, digital TV and smart phones.
This information has progressed with the changing Cyberculture which is the electronic environment where various technologies and media forms converge: the Internet and email, personal homepages, online chats, personal communications technologies, mobile entertainment and information technologies, bioinformatics and bio-medical technologies.
Health information on social media has improved with regards to the features of Cyberculture (Convergence, Remediation, Consumption, and Interactivity) where by health information can be accessed on various digital device, it also contains videos and not only content, it is highly sought by various individuals and has enabled patients communicate with their doctors while online.
Despite the switch by medical practitioners in embracing the changing digital era, the participatory nature of social media entails an open forum for information exchange, therefore increasing the possibility of wide dissemination of non-credible, and potentially erroneous, health information. (Chou, 2009). In accessing health information online, most individuals may not consider other Internet tools such as e-mail, chat, instant messenger, or social networking sites, which may actually help them to identify credible information on the Web (Eysenbach, 2007).
The fact is that there is a great deal of high-quality information on the Web that is published by trusted organizations. It is important for these organizations to appear credible enough to initiate a behavior change in consumers.
The world we leave in ensures that almost every individual is able to find and provide medical solace online, but, just because we can, it doesn’t mean we must. Without the knowledge on where to access legitimate e-health, it is not a good idea to consider social media as a source of healthcare since this cannot be substituted with health personnel.