Health and health care in an Angie's List world

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A lot of sectors are struggling in today's economy. Personal experience isn't one of them. Personal experience is soaring in value thanks to our technical ability to access and share information. Personal health and health care experiences are no exception.

A study from the Pew Research Center found that 80 percent of Internet users look online for health information — accessing and exchanging information on everything from symptoms and treatments to experiences with doctors and hospitals.

Researchers call this peer-to-peer health care. According to associate director Susannah Fox:

"The Pew Internet Project's consistent finding — in politics, commerce, health care and other sectors — is that the Internet provides people access not only to information, but also to other people who share their interests."

The bigger story here is this: We're talking about influential information. What's being exchanged is everything from simple advice, to strong warnings, to positive encouragement, to fresh approaches and insightful perspectives — all from the online social sphere. These now play an active role in what used to be the exclusive information domain of medical professionals.

Peer-to-peer health care is a domain-changer.

Health professionals still hold the top spot as the go-to source for health information for most people. But no one should dismiss as insignificant the level of influence now wielded by ordinary people armed with smartphones and iPads who track and share their personal health experiences online. Even Angie's List is in on the action.

While this tells us how people are amassing health information, let's not forget that this information is being interpreted as well as accessed. We each get inspired or upset, feel empowered or helpless, by what our minds latch on to in the social marketplace. And as we know, what we think and feel directly affects our health as well as our behavior.

In the interest of healthy living in a digital age, it makes sense before launching the browser or checking email that we first check our intuition and be aware of what it's conveying. We can't afford to be online and on auto-pilot. Some would call that being hypnotized. We need to be alert, discerning thinkers when it comes to managing our way in the digital world.

Practicing discernment should be taken seriously, because the quality of life depends on the quality of consciousness. Filling our minds with information that causes us to worry, to dread worst-case scenarios, to feel helpless or even angry works against health. On the other hand, thoughts that produce peace, inspiration and compassion have an uplifting, positive effect on us. They can promote and even help restore health and are a fairly common experience to those who regularly pray and who believe there's a spiritual source of health and happiness.

Advances in technology are making peer-to-peer health care the new normal. Text by text, conversation by conversation, we're uncovering what people have learned from personal experience promotes healthy living. This is good information to have. When this is coupled with advancement in our ability to discern the difference between truly healthy information and unhealthy information — welcoming the one and filtering out the other — we will not only think better but be healthier.


Russ Gerber is a syndicated health blogger and a Christian Science teacher and practitioner. This post was originally published on HuffingtonPost.com. Follow him on twitter @russgerber.