The idea of groups of people, all dealing with similar health problems, coming together to discuss the problems that they face in living with their chronic condition is not a new one. Many health advocacy groups grew from this concept. The Web has provided a new means of communication for people, and is of greatest benefit for individuals in remote areas that do not have access to in-person groups, and people afflicted with rare conditions where it would be unlikely for another person with the same condition to live nearby.
The benefits of these online communities needs no explanation. However, there can be drawbacks. Medical treatment is a very individualized thing. What works for one patient may not work for another. Online communities can create a "it worked for him, it will work for me" mentality. And taking medical advice from a non-health care professional (no matter how well meant) can be dangerous.
The consumer should look upon online communities as well-meaning friends who will listen to problems and try to provide support and comfort, and remember that the doctor, nurse, therapist, or pharmacist is the health expert, not the fellow sufferer.
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