MEDICAL INFORMATION: Surge in Sites Leads to Better Access
As new health Web sites, like Stanford University's e-Skolar service pop up, the medical community hails the benefits, the New York Times reports. These online information sources help reinforce health providers' knowledge and enable them to give "on-the-spot" answers to their patients. Because doctors living far from leading medical facilities can access up-to-date information as readily as their peers living close to such centers, these Web sites can lead to significant improvements in services and care. Also, e-Skolar is designed to help those doctors with limited computer skills. The insurance industry praises these medical sites because they can potentially reduce doctors visits and unnecessary referrals to specialists, if providers can find answers to patient questions on the first visit. But some physicians, like Dr. Thomas Lee, medical director at the Partners Community Health Care network in Boston, have reservations. He says that doctors need to find a balance between looking for answers on the Internet and communicating with patients during visits: "I do think that something can be lost both in terms of learning what's going on with the patient and in communicating to patients. The best doctors are going to figure out how to do both." E-health experts say the ultimate goal "is to meld online patient records with information from textbooks and journals and guidelines suggesting treatment." But that will take several years and, according to Jon Duane, chief West Coast health care consultant for McKinsey & Company, the future of online medical information services will depend on how often doctors use them (Freudenheim, New York Times, 5/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.