Editorials on what they find. They typically use a search engine to find and review a number of different sites that target their specific concerns.2 3 And they frequendy find or form sophisticated online and offline networks, which can help them deal with the task of interpreting complex medical inforrnation (see box). These person to person interactions provide patients with a valuable source of quality control. As one online self helper recently commented: "Doc, out here on the internet we patients have our own system of peer review." We believe that the 21st century will be the age of the net empowered medical end user and that the patient driven online support networks of today will evolve into more robust and capable medical guidance systems that will allow end users to direct and control an ever growing portion of their own medical care. Doctors who continue to believe that their patients are inherently incapable of navigating the plentiful health resources of the internet will find their net savvy patients leaving them for other doctors. By contrast, those wise and caring doctors who realise that we may have just as much to learn from our patients as they have from us should do very well indeed. Tom Ferguson senior research fellow Online Health, Pew Internet and American Life Project, 1100 Connecticut Avenue, Washington DC 20036-4116, USA (firstname.lastname@example.org ) 1 Wilson SM. Impact of the internet on primary care staff in Glasgow./ Med Internet Res 1999;l(2):e7. http://wwwjmir.Org/1999/2/e7/ (accessed 28 February 2002). 2
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