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ISSN: 0034-6233
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vol. 53
Original paper

Analysis of information on rheumatology from a selected Internet forum in the context of the need for telemedicine solutions

Rafał Szpakowski
Maria Maślińska
Grażyna Dykowska
Patrycja Zając

Reumatologia 2015; 53, 5: 260–267
Online publish date: 2015/12/08
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Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine how often patients and undiagnosed people who complain of musculoskeletal system and rheumatic diseases look for knowledge contained on an Internet forum. Content analysis was used to identify the level of Internet users’ activity in the rheumatology section, compared to other areas of medicine.

Material and methods: Material included information posted on the Internet forum established at http://medyczka.pl/. The method employed was a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the content. The method was based on qualitative assessment of the first post in each thread presented on the rheumatologic subforum, by assigning keywords, subjectively determined by the researcher, to such a post. For each keyword a specific definition was established, determining a situation in which a given keyword was used.

Results: The quantitative analysis qualified rheumatology in the last place in terms of Internet users’ activity compared to other branches of medicine. The qualitative assessment of the rheumatologic forum indicated that the three most common keywords were joint pain (32), joints swelling (13), and schoolage (13). The three most common intentional keywords (arranged in order of their decreasing number) were diagnosis based on symptoms (29), interpretation of the laboratory test results (9), and how to deal with symptoms (8).

Conclusions: The analysis leads to the conclusion that the rheumatologic subforum, along with other subforums listed above, presents a critically low level of discussion. There is a large disproportion between the number of active and passive forum users, suggesting that numerous individuals search the forum for presented information. Based on the qualitative analysis of the information stocks of the rheumatologic subforum, it was established that most of the questions posted concerned young individuals, who complained of joint pain and swelling, and asked for a possible diagnosis based on the presented symptomatology, interpretation of the laboratory test results and alleviation of disease symptoms.

internet forum, rheumatology, content analysis, telemedicine

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