Hugh Grant backs social media healthcare site

pharmafile | August 7, 2009 | News story | Medical Communications, Sales and Marketing Digitial, patient information 

The actor Hugh Grant is backing a new health advice website that encourages patients to share their experiences of illness.

Healthtalkonline uses social media to enable patients, carers and health professionals to learn of other people's experiences of health and illness.

The site takes anecdotal advice from patients and puts it online in the form of video streams, audio and written accounts.

Reflections include reaction to diagnosis, effect on work, social life and relationships, decisions on treatment options and coping with side-effects.

Dr Ann McPherson, who set up the website, told the BBC: "The principle of the idea is to get the widest range of experiences that people have for each disease or health issue."

Dr McPherson herself had breast cancer fifteen years ago and said one of the things she found lacking – despite being a doctor – was information about how other patients managed their disease, coped with it and decided what to do.

She said the content would give support to patients and their carers and help them make choices about treatments.

The content will be updated every two years in order to include the most up to date examples and experiences, she said.

Health advice is one of the most popular searches on the web, with many patients keen to do their own diagnosis before going to the doctor.

McPherson said she thinks the Internet is a good thing for healthcare. "Overall it has opened up medicine to people in a way that is very important," she said.

Celebrity endorsement

Actor Hugh Grant was asked to back the site after it launched a new section aimed at pancreatic cancer sufferers.

Grant's mother passed away following an 18-month battle with the condition eight years ago.

He said he was "incredibly impressed" by the site. "It would have been very nice if this had existed when my mum was diagnosed," he said.

"Wonderful though the doctors were, I don't think there's any substitute for hearing first hand experiences of patients or people who have been close to patients. Especially on a website that is so carefully balanced and researched."

He said the difference between Healthtalkonline and many other health sites found on the web is that content is checked for accuracy before it goes online by a team of medical experts. "[Other health sites] are just not in the same league," he said.

Other celebrity supporters include Jon Snow, Dawn French, John Humphrys, Ian McEwan, Dr Jonathan Miller, Jenni Murray, Michael Palin, Philip Pullman, Libby Purves, Claire Rayner and Thom Yorke.


Healthtalkonline was created by Department of Health sponsored charity DIPEx and the site's content is gathered and checked for accuracy by Researchers at the University of Oxford before it goes in the public domain.

Topics covered include cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's, bereavement, diabetes, HIV, rheumatoid arthritis, mental health and women's health.

There is also a young people's version of the site,, which focuses on issues such as sexual health and teenage cancer.

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