Online Fibromyalgia Support Groups Empower Patients
A new study looked at whether or not online support groups had an empowering effect on patients, and if so, how. An online questionnaire was completed by 528 individuals who had breast cancer, fibromyalgia or arthritis and were active in online groups for patients.
The results of the study showed that the patients felt empowered in a number of ways, with “being better informed” and “enhanced social well-being” leading the list. Researchers concluded that participation in online support groups can make a valuable contribution to the empowerment of patients.
The researchers went on to encourage health care providers to tell their patients about online support groups and the benefits that participation in these groups can offer.
I can personally attest to the many benefits of online support for patients – both as a patient and as a patient educator/advocate. I began looking online for support 12 years ago when I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia. At that time, any support – on or off line – was hard to come by. Finding a group of people who understood what I was going through and offered both information and encouragement meant more to me than I can ever adequately express.
It was also through that first online support group that I met Lynne Matallana. Within six months, she and I felt empowered enough to start the National Fibromyalgia Association in an effort to spread awareness of this little known illness.
Today I'm continuing to work online, as I have for the past 12 years, to educate, encourage and empower patients. The reason I've chosen to focus most of my efforts online is that I've found it's the best and most effective way of reaching the largest number of people. Some of the benefits of online support sites like this one include:
- Access to accurate, up-to-date information about your condition.
- Encouragement from others with similar experiences.
- Being able to find support when you need it – virtually anytime of the day or night.
- Ability to participate regardless of physical limitations.
- Building the confidence to take control of your health care.
Even after all these years, it's still the encouragement and support from all of you that helps me keep going. I'm glad to finally see a study that confirms what I've known for many years... online support groups can be a valuable tool for empowering patients.