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For Many People, First the Doctor's Office, Then the Web

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A new survey finds that more than eighty percent of Internet users in the United States search for health information online. The survey is from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation. 


Susannah Fox from the Pew Internet Project says doctors are still the main source of health information. But the survey found that searching online is one of the leading ways that people look for a second opinion. She said people are fact-checking what they have heard from a doctor. 


However, people are still very likely to turn to a health professional when they are planning a treatment.Forty-four percent of people are actually looking for doctors or other providers when they search for health information online. Another finding of the survey: Two-thirds of Internet users look online for information about a specific disease or medical condition. 


The Internet has also become an important source of emotional support for people with health problems. Susannah Fox says one in five Internet users has gone online to find other people who have the same condition. She said even more people with serious or rare diseases go online to find other people who share their health concerns. 


A disease is considered rare if it affects fewer than two hundred thousand people worldwide. The rise of social networking has made it easier for people with rare diseases to connect with each other and feel less alone. Social networking is also changing the way some doctors and patients communicate with each other. Dr. Jeff Livingston operates a medical center for women in Irving, Texas. His office uses password-protected software to share information with patients. He says they provide patients full access to their medical care. Dr. Livingston says the software has increased efficiency, reduced costs and improved relations with patients. 


He says: "It has just revolutionized the way we do health care." His medical center also has a Facebook page, a MySpace page and a Twitter feed.For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. We would like to hear your stories about going online to search for health information. There's a lot of information out there. How do you know if you can trust what you find? You can post your comments on our website, voaspecialenglish.com. 

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