The search engine giants, Dr. Google or Dr. Bing, are visited by most of our patients before seeking medical help. In 1976, medical student Tom Ferguson, MD, first coined the term e-Patient. It means a health consumer who uses the Internet to gather information about a medical condition for themselves or on behalf of family and friends and uses electronic communication tools to cope with medical conditions. Dr. Ferguson described e-Patients as “empowered medical consumers.”1
During the COVID-19 pandemic, social media and networking platforms – such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, WhatsApp, online health support groups – are used increasingly by e-Patients to gather critical health information. Health care providers often take a conflicted stand on the use of social media. Though we want our patients to read about their illnesses and make informed choices, we often get frustrated by misdiagnoses, misinformation, and disinformation that comes with it.