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          医疗保健信息服务商 引领在线健康信息


          Press Release

          DIY doctor-More people turn to the internet first to deal with a health concern



          Doctor Xi Liyan from Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital answering questions online.

            Doctor Xi Liyan from Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital answering questions online.

            Modern people turn to the Internet first to deal with a health concern

            Three months into her pregnancy, Lily Zheng, who lives in Beijing, found the Internet a good source of information when it came to clearing her head of minor health worries.

            "I check the Internet when I am worrying about certain symptoms, before I go to the hospital," she said.

            Like Zheng, many people, particularly young people, often turn to the Internet to get information first if they believe something is wrong with their body.

            The Internet is very resourceful in this respect. For example, type "cervical spine aching" into a search engine and plenty of websites will appear with relevant information and advice.

            Not all see this as positive though, since the advice might not come from qualified doctors and could result in a wrong diagnosis.

            Online diagnosis

            In June, over 30 doctors from Zhongshan Hospital in Chongqing used Weibo at qq.com, one of China's largest microblog services, as a way to communicate with patients online. Then last month, Wuhan Asia Heart Hospital (WAHH) in Hubei Province started a 10-day consultation project on Weibo to answer netizens' questions about heart disease.

            Other hospitals in cities across China have done similar things in recent years.

            "It is a necessary step given the size of China and the fact that the number of Weibo users is increasing," a staff at WAHH told the Global Times.

            "In the past, people, particularly from remote areas, had to travel a long way to a big hospital for a consultation or to show their laboratory sheet to doctors. Now they can send it to doctors online," he added.

            Besides Weibo being used by hospitals, including the highest ranked ones (3-A), many individual doctors have also opened Weibo accounts. Type in "doctor" and you will find hundreds of them covering various diseases, turning the Internet into a comprehensive hospital. Doctors who interact a lot with patients online usually have fans ranging from the thousands to millions.

            Netizens can contact doctors in different fields on Weibo according to their needs. Some doctors open Weibo voluntarily while others cooperate with health websites. Most websites mainly rely on advertisement from hospitals and paid telephone consultation.

            Weibo is just one of many sites that have grown popular in China in recent years, as the Internet is more widespread.

            Gu Jing, president of 39.net, a pioneering health website built in 2000, told the Global Times that they have over 6 million visitors every day in their online inquiry section, ask.39.net.

            "The number is climbing," she said.

            Two sides

            People turn to the Internet mainly because it is resourceful, convenient and either free or cheap, without long queues.

            As Zheng told the Global Times, it is common to have minor issues during pregnancy, and so it is a waste of time to go to the hospital every time you have a concern. She said she would upload her laboratory sheets online to seek free analysis from doctors, adding that she would still go to the hospital for big examinations.

            "It makes sense that people would want to use the most convenient way to know about their illness first," said Wang Jin, a doctor in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

            Guo Jun, a doctor who specializes in male fertility issues at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, offers advice online at HaoDF.com. Guo told the Global Times that some patients want privacy when discussing their disease and the anonymity of online consultancy makes them feel safe.

            "They mostly send me personal letters," he said. "Or we have one-on-one talks on the phone, which will be deleted after they are finished to protect privacy."

            But he emphasized that online consultations cannot replace going to hospitals. Relying too much on online consultations could lead to unnecessary worries and even the wrong diagnosis.

            Some netizens complained that online information sometimes leave patients baffled. And some online doctors advertise for their hospitals or medicine in this way.

            "If you are lucky, you may come across responsible doctors," said Wang. "If not, you could encounter a fake doctors or hospital, who could diagnose a severe disease based on nothing."

            Besides, people who doubt the new way of consultation also hold that going to doctors with information found online hinders the communication between patients and doctors, if there is a contradiction.

            Healthy websites

            Dxy.cn, a network for professionals in the medical industry, held a survey about the new trend, which shows that about 70 percent of the 314 people who voted regard the Internet as a good tool. They say it helps doctors know more about patients' conditions.

            However, about 24 percent thought the mingled information online could mislead patients. Rampant inaccurate and false information and even deceptive advertisements are worrisome.

            Besides online consulting service on hospitals' websites, there are several professional medical websites like HaoDF.com, 39.net and familydoctor.com.cn that feature interaction between doctors and patients.

            Gu explained that initially, 39.net could only be used as a website to acquire health information. When they realized people's rising awareness of health management and their need for interactive communication, they launched ask.39.net four years ago.

            Besides routine online consulting, they regularly invite famous doctors to answer netizens' questions at a set time period, stressing timely interaction.

            The founder of HaoDF.com, Wang Hang, wanted to make an evaluation website for hospitals and gradually developed it into a communication platform for patients and doctors, pushed by the practical needs of patients.

            Yu Keyi, a doctor with Peking Union Medical College Hospital, told China Newsweek that these websites emerged as a result of the difficulty of seeing doctors in China. He said that the websites served as family doctors in China.

            Some doctors are careful to avoid misleading and unnecessary information. Those who give suggestions usually add, "My suggestion is just for reference and specific diagnosis and treatment should be up to your doctor."

            "I usually only answer questions asked clearly and suggest patients go to hospitals for examination," said Wang Jin. "We need to be very careful when it concerns health."

            Through experience, people are beginning to learn which websites are reliable. Zheng said she now only seeks advice from several reputable websites, where both doctors and patients register with real names.

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