The New Patient Power

Publication: Newsweek

Author: Russell Watson

06/25/2008 - Austin Maxwell, 13, and his mother, Janet, 45, of Modesto, Calif., rarely go to doctors anymore. "I don't need them," she says. Maxwell prefers the Internet. "I use that instead of the doctor because [Web sites] have the most up-to-date information," she says. Twelve years ago Maxwell did what no doctor could do for her: she figured out what was wrong with baby Austin.

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Both for better and worse, the old doctor-patient relationship is breaking down. The traditional, paternalistic model of care—the all-knowing doctor, the trusting patient—has gone the way of black bags and house calls.

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It's already too late to turn back. The Web is a regular source of health or medical information for 52 million Americans, according to a study last year by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Patients and their families do more Web surfing than investors, students or people who buy things online. But Pew found that most "health seekers" worry about getting unreliable information. Lee Rainie, project director for Pew, told a federal panel: "Too often, they are stumbling around cyberspace unaided."

Read the full article The New Patient Power on Newsweek 's Web site.

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