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Introduction

Communication is an essential aspect of daily life as it enables individuals to express or convey their feelings, needs and concerns. As it is being witnessed in other fields, technology is reshaping the way things are done and communication has not been left behind. The advent of the Internet has introduced new modes of communication such as e-mail, social media and web-based forums. The healthcare sector has adopted web-based forums as a medium for exchanging information amongst health care providers and their patients. This is likely tremendously to impact various health-related fields. This is because it will enable patients and care providers rapidly to access and transfer information.

Benefits to the Patient

Communication through web-based forums is likely to benefit the patient in a number of ways. According to the American College of Physicians (ACP, 2008) one of the main benefits is that the patient can reach health care providers more conveniently as opposed to methods such as appointments.         

Patient Confidentiality

Patient confidentiality is a mandatory requirement in the medical profession. Health care providers always ensure that patient information is not accessible to third parties who may wish to use it for nefarious purposes. Ensuring confidentiality on information transacted over the Internet is more difficult as compared to other modes. Nevertheless, several measures are instituted to ensure privacy. One of them is to give patients and care providers the option of protecting their accounts using usernames and passwords (Jeffords, Scheidt, and Thibadoux, 1999). This makes it impossible for any other person other than the individual with the username or passwords to sign in and access information on the forum. However, this does not make information entirely safe. According to ACP, HIPAA regulations require that health organizations should protect “any health information that is transmitted electronically over open networks so that such communications cannot easily be intercepted and read by parties other than the intended recipient” (2008, p. 7), this can be done through encryption methods such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

Effectiveness of Web-Based Forum Communication

According to NCBI (2000), stakeholders in the healthcare sector have identified the Internet as a valuable medium for reaching large numbers of health consumers. This can be evidenced by the proliferation of various health care-related web-based forums. Other than offering a platform for alternative diagnosis and management of diseases, the forums also aid in the promotion of various healthy lifestyles, and interventions to prevent the onset of disease.

Difference from other Mediums

Unlike other mediums, web-based forums make it is easy for health care providers to give the additional information by including links to reliable websites on specific medical. Another advantage is that the web-based forums can include repository of commonly asked questions so as to ensure faster access to information. According to the ACP (2008), web-based forums also give the patient an opportunity to learn about the condition without requiring the physician to do it personally. Therefore, this helps in giving them more time to attend to other medical issues

How social Networking Can Change Communication in Health Care

As compared to other media of communication, the Internet through web-based forums offers “greater interactivity and better tailoring of information to individual needs” (NCBI, 2000). This has the advantage of effectively addressing individual health-related problems and, therefore, may significantly bring changes about in consumer behavior.

Marketing Health Care Products or Services

The Internet has provided various industries with an opportunity to market products and services. This is because a large number of consumers can be accessed at a time. The health care sector is also set to benefit.  The approach is relatively cheap for companies to advertise products and services on web-based forums and other social media websites. Alternatively, they can come up with their own websites since the start-up cost is relatively low.

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