Although the majority of US adults has Internet access and gathers health information online, the Internet does not replace clinicians. People rate health professionals as their top source for technical questions such as diagnosis and treatment, but nonprofessionals (eg, friends and family) are rated higher for emotional support and quick remedies. For their most recent health issue, 21% of adults say they turned to others who have the same health condition; evidence of people’s interest in connecting with and learning from each other. People living with chronic diseases (and their caregivers) are especially likely to say they look online for peer advice. They are pioneering new ways of pursuing health by banding together and sharing knowledge; so-called peer-to-peer health care. Practical tips from fellow patients and caregivers can have far-reaching implications for clinical outcomes. As a parent of a chronically ill child observed: “We all work collaboratively, but I notice that my doctor doesn’t. After I’ve talked with my community online, I go back to him and ask, ‘What do your colleagues say about this issue?’ And it’s clear it didn’t occur to him to ask them.” Clinicians might do well to look into online patient communities and consider recommending them as resources for their patients. Clinicians might look at patient networks as a model for their own collaborative learning process as well. Linking the expertise of patients, families, and clinicians holds promise for further improving care and outcomes.

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