Thursday, July 29, 2010

Social Connections and the Internet: the OM healthcare reform

Remember a few weeks ago when I said there was more exciting research to come...well I've got the lowdown for you all, and it is GREAT news! Like I said before we wanted to focus our research on the three areas that Outdoor Mindset most incorporates in our mission and goals, physical activity, social support, and internet connections. Since I already told you about physical activity, I'll get right to the point with our results from social support and internet connections.

Many studies have been conducted on the roles that social support and networks play in a persons health over time. The results have consistently found that people who have more social support live longer, report having less stress, and have higher levels of physical activity. Social isolation is a common risk factor in people suffering from chronic illness. Many programs that are aimed at behavioral and mental health have used social support groups to increase benefits. Support groups have become a well-known and popular strategy for patients suffering from illnesses. So all in all, having support from people will help create happier and healthier mindsets able to conquer the hardships of life.

The internets role in healthcare is a bit of a newer trend, so not much research has been conducted in this area. However, the research that has been done has great implications for the future and for Outdoor Mindset. In a study conducted to find out how people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS were using the internet it was found that people were using the internet for information seeking, social connection, advocacy, and escape. People using the internet found that having others to talk to via internet gave them support at a level that was very non-invasive in the beginning when they felt vulnerable and scared. People were able to disclose as much information as they chose. This study also exemplified the aspect of how having up-to-date information on the web gave them the availability and access to be most in control of their diagnosis. Participants reported that the internet gave them a sense of freedom to express themselves and to take responsibility for their treatment. This responsibility and control of the diagnosis is what OM is determined to give our members. In this quote from from a person diagnosed with HIV, he says it all, "(the internet) generates an ‘encouraging effect’ because it puts me in contact with men and women who have become infected and who’ve somehow decided to take that on as a challenge, instead of some kind of personal embarrassment or defeat”.

The internets ability to connect like individuals is its greatest asset to healthcare. Like-minded individuals are likely to be more understanding, accepting, capable of supporting, and better equipped to to give accurate information and advice in regards to the diagnosis. The connection that internet gives to people is a sense of support to those that otherwise might be socially isolated. The internet also gives patients the 24 hour a day, 7 days a week availability to information regarding their diagnosis, and in the privacy of their own home. The internet allows people to access information that would not otherwise be available to them outside of a doctor office. The social connection implications that the internet provides are undeniable and most beneficial for people diagnosed with any illness, disease, or disorder. The bottom line is that the internet is changing the way healthcare is available to it's patients. It is changing the relationship between doctors and patients. Patients are now able to take better control over their diagnosis and have a more solid connection with other like individuals. The internet is empowering patients all over the world and most clinicians are jumping on board with the new developments and internet connections. Clinicians are able to recommend websites for their patients to best serve their purpose.

After all this reading and researching, I am happy to say that the results couldn't be more in-line with the mission and vision of Outdoor Mindset. I know I enjoy research more than most, yes I am a nerd and proud of it, but all this info is definitely worth getting excited about! Outdoor Mindset is definitely headed in the right direction and we can't wait to get these connections and benefits going for our members!!

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