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Author(s): Mare Kõiva

Journal: Mäetagused. Hüperajakiri
ISSN 1406-992X

Volume: 39;
Start page: 29;
Date: 2008;
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Keywords: communication | computer-mediated communication | disease narrative | doctor-patient communication | online medicine | patient narrative

ABSTRACT
The adaptation of information technology to everyday clinical practices coincided with the emergence of online databases, personal medical history and institutional information websites. One of the central issues in online medicine is source credibility. This paper overviews the types and communication of online medical information that have changed the logistics of doctor-patient communication. Inter-doctor communication also benefits from the possibilities for professional communication, and application of multiprofessional knowledge; it helps shape and unify professional terms and nomenclature, guarantees the confidentiality and security of data, while providing easy management of high-quality data; makes provisions for knowledge management and ambulatory e-services.The paper overviews the information portal Kliinik.ee (www.kliinik.ee, OÜ Tervisenõuanne) which shares medical information made available by medical professionals for non-medics, mostly for patients. The portal offers a range of e-medicine services, such as responses by specialists, psychologists, pharmacists. The Communication groups offer the patients free medical advice, feedback, a second opinion to their treatment scheme, as well as an opportunity to share knowledge and their personal experiences, and receive emotional support. Writing therapy is becoming increasingly popular and has spontaneously moved online. Today, there are discussion forums available for people suffering from diabetes, cancer and other serious (or incurable) medical problems. The Internet is in manyrespects advantageous for this type of therapy: it provides an opportunity to establish a dialogue with others with a similar condition while protecting one’s privacy and anonymity. Medical professionals post comments under their own names which gives them credibility.Seeking medical help at an institutional site from practising doctors makes the language use and attitudes of the online forum official, polite and serious. A closer look at the construction and vocabulary of the doctor-patient communication act reveals that the most common features are formality and distancing – the partners are not equal in their sociopolitical standing. Inter-patient discussion groups are more varied in their style of communication and language use, ranging from informational notices to narratives and displays of emotion. A discussion concerning a visit to a folk healer is treated at more length. Interaction of this kind is a discussion that preserves the individual characteristics of many people in writing. Opinions are individualised, making the discussion similar to oral dialogue in which different strategies are used in reasoning. The posted messages reflect natural personal language use in forms ranging from informational notices to lengthy narratives. The general attitude is supportive and trusting towards official medicine and the personal reactions to social and situational events. A medical discussion board comprises a conditional group that does not form a network or community but engages in a dialogue to obtain and provide expert opinion. Users of patients’ discussion group and their narratives have a close connection to reality. The Internet offers the users new ways to share their practices and experiences and sometimes supports or even provides alternatives not available in offline reality. Such groups are based on information sharing and narratives and play an important role in maintaining emotional stability.

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