GEORGE STRAIT: Discusses How the Internet Can Improve America’s Health Care System
Speaking at the David A. Winston Health Policy Fellowship's annual forum on issues that affect the health industry's public-private partnerships, George Strait, former ABC News chief medical correspondent and senior vice president of content at parenting Web site DrSpock.com, last Wednesday addressed the Internet's potential to improve America's health care system. Strait said that while America boasts "the best [health care] technology in the world ... the question is, 'Do we have the best health care system?'" He noted that "the gap between the medicine that science can offer and the health care that many Americans receive is huge and is growing." Strait discussed the role that the Internet could play in closing this gap, suggesting that an "end-to-end," Internet-based solution could create "new efficiencies" and a "rationalized approach to care." He said he envisions an Internet solution that would provide physicians and patients with myriad services, from accessible and reliable health care content to practice management programs to the ability to view lab results online and submit them to another physician for a second opinion. However, Strait added that many venture capitalists believe that such an endeavor requires both "trust" and "money," and said he doubts that for-profit companies would "ever be able to garner enough of either to be as successful as they would need to be to provide the services that providers and patients will demand." But Strait does see potential in joint ventures between groups of not-for-profit organizations, which have already gained the public's trust.
Room for Improvement in Medical Journalism
Strait also addressed medical journalism, his field of expertise. To emphasize that medical journalists hold a large responsibility for providing accurate and unbiased information, Strait noted that 36% of Americans in a 1999 survey said they obtain most of their health care information from journalists and the media. Among those, 75% reported that they paid "great" or "moderate" attention to this information, and 58% actually changed their behavior or made treatment decisions based on media-derived information. Meanwhile, Strait pointed to a separate survey that revealed that half of Americans rate the quality of medical journalism as "fair" or "poor," with doctors taking "an even dimmer view." He advocates a "credentialing" system for health and medical journalists and envisions a community where scientists, journalists and businessmen could commingle and learn from each other (Meredith Weiner, California Healthline, 10/23).