Sometimes chatting can actually be a good thing. Yes, I know many (including my two teenagers) spend what seems like an eternity tweeting, texting and chatting about absolutely nothing. You wonder, whether down the road intelligent conversation will be a thing of the past.

Yet chatting doesn’t always have to be mindless. Younger patients who suffer from some serious chronic diseases have turned to the Internet not just for information from some respected medical site, but also to share their experiences with others who have similar diseases or who have undergone similar procedures.

These kind of interactions are informative and not only for patients. Some researchers are closely following chats to glean information about what works and what doesn’t. For example, it turns out that many patients on a chatroom for Crohn’s disease ( an autoimmune disease of the colon) find that beer drinking worsens their disease, a previously unknown fact. Researchers can then conduct double blind studies or perhaps lab studies to determine why this is so and what can be done about it.

Researching difficult medical topics is not easy. Many of these patients, by virtue of long experience and multiple medical encounters, understand their disease quite well. They are of course well versed in the chatroom jargon and can thus explain difficult concepts in ways that non medical people can understand.

Things that worked for patients and those that don’t are chronicled. Users can ask questions and get suggestions on what worked for others and where to turn to. Obscure references to rare conditions can be found.

And simply getting on such sites gives patients a psychological boost: There are others out there who suffer from the same disease as they do and are still living out their lives.

A good site is Patientslikeme. Here you can connect with others who have the same issues as you.