The authors of a study that concluded information websites for patient with long-term conditions were detrimental to health have retracted their findings, saying that interactive health communication applications (IHACs) benefit people with chronic illnesses.

The new study, published in the Cochrane Review today, says users with diabetes or other long-term conditions can feel positive effects from using support websites.

Dr Elizabeth Murray from the Department of Primary Care & Population Sciences at University College London, and one of the study’s authors, said: "People with chronic disease often want more information about their illness and the various treatment options available. They may also seek advice and support to help them make behaviour changes necessary to manage and live with the disease, such as changes in diet or exercise.

"Computer-based programs which combine health information with, for example, online peer support may be one way of meeting these needs and of helping people to achieve better health."

"IHCAs appear to have largely positive effects on users, in that users tend to become more knowledgable, feel better socially supported, and may have improved behavioural and clinical outcomes compared to non-users," the study states.

A spokesperson for University College London confirmed to E-Health Insider that the study had not been carried out a second time. The authors of the study, published almost exactly a year ago today, had retracted their original findings, re-examined their data and updated their conclusions.

Dr Murray called for more work to be done in the area, focusing on how the websites work from a psychological point of view, what effects they have on carers and other professionals and whether there are any "unintended adverse effects."

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