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~ Using a Website for Patient Web-Education ~

There are many advantages to having a website available to patients at any time to access information and resources (Table 1). A website may function as an ideal adjunct for patient and physician education. With the growing need to provide more patient education but with less time and resources to do so, a website is an obvious resource that a physician can utilize to supplement the patient education already started in the office setting. It may be a useful means of helping the busy primary care practitioner provide patient education for depression and aid in follow-up. A website may also help to overcome obstacles and the stigma of depression by allowing visitors to utilize the resources in the privacy of their own home.

Advantages of Using a Website for Patient Web-Education
1. A website is accessible at any time, day or night.
2. A website can be accessed from home, when a person is receptive.
3. Information can be updated immediately.
4. There is an abundance of patient education materials available on the Internet.
5. The Internet levels the playing field making the same information accessible to anyone with access to a computer.
6. A website can be accessed by patients to clarify, augment or reinforce information presented in an office visit.
7. A website can be experienced in a variety of ways--through colors, sounds, and images in addition to reading content on the site.
8. Via Internet connectivity, websites can reach those in rural communities and under-served areas, or facilities with limited consultants and libraries, to provide them with access to the most current on-line resources, journals and textbooks.
9. With no state, national or international boundaries on the Internet, this allows for connecting patients and practitioners who have similar experiences, are dealing with rare diseases, or have expertise in a particular area, throughout the world to share medical information and support.
Table 1

A website can also serves as an ideal communication tool for those with a variety of limitations (Table 2) and a way to potentially reach those home-bound for a variety of reasons. Journey of Hearts was created for those who for a variety of reasons may find themselves homebound and unable to utilize other resources.

A Website: A Communication Tool for those with Limitations
    Physical - wheelchairs, bed confinement, deformities
  • Situational - environment (natural disasters), rural communities, transportation limitations
  • Primary Caregiver for Family member - child or adult 
  • Phobias - social, environmental, fear of crowds, people
  • Psychiatric - panic, anxiety attacks, depression
  • Emotional - depressed, distraught, grief-stricken
  • Financial - free access to information on the Internet, allows for those without the resources to see a counselor to find some self-help resources and information on-line
Table 2

The Internet Availability 24/7/365
One of the great advantages that the Internet has over conventional forms of grief treatment--involving scheduled face-to-face appointments or group meetings--it that it is always available as a resource 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. As a colleague described this site:

    This web site is a good resource because it is available anytime day or night, whenever the need for support arises especially when your friends go on with their busy lives and you haven't fulfilled your need to grieve.
    Patricia J. Paternoster, R.N.
Intuitively we believed that the site would be most helpful for people in the middle of the night, struggling with insomnia, unable to find a supportive friend or therapist and still need to grieve. Journey of Hearts was created to serve as a "Virtual Shoulder to Cry on" or "Virtual Hand Holding," to help visitors find a place of support and something to do during the night.

Our statistics of users to the Journey of Hearts site confirm that many of our visitors are utilizing the site late at night or early in the mornings--times when people are inclined to be unable to sleep, or unable to find a friend. Many e-mail messages sent have been sent to Journey of Hearts (often during the night) from those who have found solace on this site during sleepless nights.

Dyer, KA. Thompson CD. Journey of Hearts: From Idea to Reality A Website for Web-education on Grief and Loss. ITCH 2000 Leaving(Information Technology in community Health)Conference Preceedings. University of Victoria, School of Information Health Sciences
Dyer KA. Thompson CD. Internet Use for Web-education on the Overlooked Areas of Grief and Loss. CyberPsychology and Behavior. 2000; 3(2):255-270.
Dyer, KA, Thompson CD. Triad of Medical Web-Education Advantages of Using a Website for Patient Web-Education. JAMIP. November 1, 1999.
Dyer, KA, Thompson, CD. Lessons and Insights Learned from Creating a Unique Integrative Medical Website for Web-education. Presented at World Congress for the Internet in Medicine, MEDNET '99 Heidelberg, Germany.
Dyer KA, Thompson CD, Reis O. Romer S. Using the Internet for Patient and Physician Web-education and Health Promotion. Presented at World Congress for the Internet in Medicine, MEDNET '98, London, England.

One of the advantages of a website is that it is always there, 
even in the middle of the night, when a person is receptive. 

Kirsti A. Dyer, MD, MS

See the Emergency 911 Page for links to immediate resources
if you are feeling helpless, hopeless, overwhelmingly depressed, or suicidal.

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Last update July 20, 2002