Web is somewhere between the Dark Ages and Utopia for health information

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Laura Landro reports on a Pew Research Center survey that shows use of the web is now common for researching health topics and seeking quality hospitals and physicians. (Web Grows as Health-Research Tool.)

But the results of these searches still leave a lot to be desired:

  • Information on doctors is mostly limited to credentials, training, and location, and a few other elements. See HealthGrades as an example
  • When physician quality information is presented (which is still rare), it’s usually at the network or group level (see Massachusetts Health Quality Partners)–but patients are treated by individual physicians, not groups or networks
  • Hospital quality information is also presented at a fairly gross level. See the Medicare Hospital Compare website

The article also talks about patients initiating email exchanges with physicians they find on the web. Actually, it’s often hard to find physicians’ email addresses and then correspondence is typically by unsecure, non-HIPAA compliant email. Good secure doctor/patient communication solutions are gaining traction (see RelayHealth) but they are still not widely adopted.

I don’t know about you, but when I have a health issue I still usually call on my physician brother and other physician friends to help steer me to the right place, which is the same thing my grandparents used to do.

May 19, 2005

One thought on “Web is somewhere between the Dark Ages and Utopia for health information”

  1. IMO, secure messaging is superior to phone calls for a number of reasons. Not least, patients and doctors can pose and answer questions thoughtfully.

    As David points out, however, picking up the phone is way easier than logging into a secure site and leaving a message (as required under HIPAA).

    By definition, my constituency are computer-age people (young parents). My perception is that more of them call than email, by a wide margin. If these folks won’t get with the program, who will?

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