TECHNOLOGY: ‘Obstacles’ Prevent Docs From Using Internet
A "host of technological obstacles" could limit the Internet's impact on health communication, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Research Council. The report, "Networking Health: Prescriptions for the Internet," cites privacy and security concerns, limited bandwiths needed for live video consultations and outdated public policies as the main stumbling blocks to doctors' increased use of the Internet in daily practice. Edward Shortliffe, head of Columbia University's medical informatics department and one of the report's authors, said, "The kinds of security, reliability and quality of service that are necessary for physicians to use the Internet more routinely can go beyond those needed for e- commerce." Although about 30 million Americans turned to the Web last year for health-related information, those figures "don't tell the whole story," Shortliffe said, noting, "They mask the fact that the Internet has not penetrated many areas of health and health care that promise even more significant transformations than we have seen" (Davis, USA Today, 2/24). The health and information-technology industries must unite to overcome potential barriers, especially in computer network design and implementation where "the operational demands of health care applications" must be considered, Shortliffe said. According the report, increased network capacity for conducting remote video consultations and more reliable protection of electronic health records are among the most needed Web improvements, according to the report. The study urges DHS to educate the medical community on the benefits of the Internet and to fund its own pilot programs that "link multiple organizations to the Internet to exchange health information" (Schmid, AP/Nando Times, 2/23).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.