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The Internet in the reproductive health care sector: good or bad?
  1. Susan Quilliam
  1. Writer, Broadcaster, Consultant and Trainer, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Susan Quilliam; susan{at}susanquilliam.com

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Cast your minds back to 1 January 1983. We didn't know it at the time, but on that day a global change began that would have a seismic impact on the work we do. I am of course talking about the Internet, which is 30 years old this year.

To celebrate this anniversary, I'm casting an eye over this technological advance that is now such an integral part of most Journal readers’ lives. Thirty years on, it's surely worthwhile to look at where we've arrived and see if it's a good place.

I must admit that until recently I wasn't completely convinced. In a 2007 column I wrote for this Journal, I reported on how patients’ use of the Internet was causing health professionals some angst.1 There was frustration at the number of hefty printouts brandished in the consulting room, defensiveness at having to counterbalance inaccurate or alarmist Internet health coverage, and wariness of how undiscriminating patients were in their use of the World Wide Web (the ‘Web’).

That said, from my investigations, patients seemed to be completely in favour. The Internet gave them the ability to log on 24/7 – and in their pyjamas, if they so wished. It gave them a wide variety of information and support. It gave them (or rather they believed it gave them) relevance; the Internet was seen to offer a topicality that the slow pace of print media could not offer, and if sometimes the facts and figures were less than accurate, patients were not too aware of that issue.

Now, in 2013, it's clear that all of us – professionals as well as patients – are persuaded. Our increased positivity about the Internet is not just down to the fact of being more at ease with it and thus less wary; it's …

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  • Funding None.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Author's note The author is the resident psychologist for the Sexual Advice Association and part of her role entails offering e-mail advice to their users on an unpaid, voluntary basis.

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