E-Medicine and Health Care Consumers: Recognizing Current Problems and Possible Resolutions for a Safer Environment
Anderson, James G.
Health Care Analysis: An International Journal of Health Care Philosophy and Policy 2002; 10(4): 403-415
Millions of Americans access the Internet for health information, which is changing the way patients seek information about, and often treat, certain medical conditions. It is estimated that there may be as many as 100,000 health-related Web sites. The availability of so much health information permits consumers to assume more responsibility for their own health care. At the same time, it raises a number of issues that need to be addressed. The health information available to Internet users may be inaccurate or out-of-date. Potential conflicts of interest result from the blurring of the distinction between advertising and professional health information. Also, potential threats to privacy may result from data mining. Health care consumers need to be able to evaluate the quality of the information provided on the Internet. Various evaluative mechanisms such as codes of ethics, rating systems, and seals of approval have been developed to aid in this process. The effectiveness of these solutions is evaluated in this paper. Finally, the paper addresses the importance of including patients in developing standardized quality assurance systems for online health information.
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