ONLINE HEALTH CARE: Despite Obstacles, Future Looks Bright
Although the Internet has the potential to "revolutionize America's dauntingly complex health care industry," the computer technology to do so is still years away, according to scientists and venture capitalists meeting at a UC-Berkeley conference last week. Titled "Into the 21st Century: Genomics and Beyond," the conference focused on the potential roadblocks to eHealth care. Noting that current online health care offerings mainly consist of informational and pharmaceutical sites, including PlanetRx.com and WebMD.com, Samuel Colella, managing director of the venture capitalist firm Versant Ventures, said that profitable eHealth business models are "few and far between." Besides the high business risk associated with eHealth, panelists indicated that privacy concerns about online medical records are another obstacle. Although placing medical records online would allow physicians to access a patient's comprehensive medical history, most Americans remain skeptical of those records' security. Dr. Mark McClellan, an assistant professor at Stanford University's Center for Health Policy, said, "There's still a fundamental perception problem of whether people think medical records online are safe." Further, hospitals, insurers and physicians use different medical record formats. To make online medical records efficient, McClellan said that all health care providers would need to agree on one standard recordkeeping system. Despite the hurdles, panelists remained optimistic about the future of online health care. Laura D'Andrea Tyson, dean of UC-Berkeley's Haas School of Business, concluded, "EHealth care is one of the few things in the last 50 years that could improve not only the quality of health care but its efficiency" (Seyfer, AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/28).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.