House calls are mostly a thing of the past, at this point. Today's patients are looking for Facebook calls.

A national survey of over 2,000 American customers of a retail pharmacy found that many patients want more online resources. More than a third of the patients surveyed had contacted their doctor via email in the past six months, and 18 percent sought medical help via Facebook, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

As many as 57 percent of the patients who participated in the survey expressed that they wanted to be able to use their physicians' websites to access their medical information. That seems completely reasonable in this day and age. Why wouldn't it be possible to access your own health information on the Internet? 

A lot of the time, it is, according to study leader Joy Lee of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"The findings highlight the gap between patient interest for online communication and what physicians may currently provide," Lee said in a statement. "Improving and accelerating the adoption of secure Web-messaging systems is a possible solution that addresses both institutional concerns and patient demand."

The results of the study showed that patients who are non-white, younger than 45-years old and earn a higher income tend to use the Internet to communicate with their doctors more. It also showed that college graduates are most likely to opt for Facebook when trying to reach a doctor.

A study published last summer made it clear that Facebook users don't want the website to intentionally alter their health, however — at least their mental health. News of a study that altered users' news feeds to see how this content affects their moods was met with outrage.

So, it seems that while we have not reached the age of Dr. Facebook yet, American patients are ready for health care to embed itself in the online world in a more passive way. Doctors just have to get better at letting their patients know what's available to them.

Photo: Clever Cupcakes | Flickr

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