BILL GATES: Internet Has “Profound Impact” On Medicine
In his syndicated column, Microsoft Chair Bill Gates writes that the Internet is already affecting the practice of medicine in many ways and promises increasing impact. Gates notes that the main function of the Internet at this point is "the sharing of research ideas and results" among both doctors and patients. Doctors have access to the latest information, studies and techniques, while patients with the same illness can "stay in touch, share information and feel less alone." Gates also notes advances in telemedicine, which allows medical information to be shared over long distances and transmitted to underserved or remote areas. Gates predicts that physicians will someday have a "paperless medical office," in which records can be stored, copied and transferred more efficiently. The advent of new "encryption and authentication technologies" will foster the transition to storing medical records in electronic format, Gates writes, conceding that the "paper approach ... has the practical advantage of helping protect privacy." He further writes that "it's vital -- and ultimately inevitable -- that agencies handling records take appropriate steps to ensure confidentiality."
Bill's Web Prescription
Gates recommends three medical-related Web sites: http://www.gen.emory.edu/medweb/ at the Emory University Health Sciences Center Library and two U.S. government sites, http://www.healthfinder.gov/ and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/. Offering a note of caution, Gates writes, "The detail of medical information is stunning -- but there's lots of quackery out on the Internet, too, so don't believe all that you read" (Salt Lake City Deseret News, 3/15).