Access to Healthcare Information From the Internet

If one of the goals of Health Informatics is to get information to the end user, than the Internet has to be the single most influential factor of the past decade. Most Americans now have easy access to the Internet. If not from a home based computer, many public agencies such as community libraries provide free computer and Internet access. With the exception of our very young and older citizens, most people in our country have basic computer skills awareness and can obtain information either directly or with minimal assistance. Internet based health information is extensive and includes topics such as basic first aid, illness prevention, health promotion, nutrition and specific information about most medical procedures. Physicians and other healthcare providers must now be willing to discuss what their patients have read in journals or on the Internet as well as what they see and hear on public broadcasts such as radio and television. This notion still does not bode well with some of the older physicians that I know. Yet, most of us have become well accustomed to such discussions and find them to be beneficial for both the patient and the healthcare professional. I frequently search the Internet regarding management of health issues for my family. Most recently, I searched the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) web site for the Community Associated Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (CA-MRSA) treatment algorithm. I emailed it for my sister to take to her physician who was treating her for shingles. Though resistant to do so, the physician did culture the lesion which ultimately came back with CA-MRSA and her treatment was changed. With the healthcare system being overburdened as it is today, we will all have to take more responsibility to research and educate ourselves regarding aspects of our own health. This is not a bad thing. Information can be empowering and promote positive change in healthy behavior. The Internet can also provide a source of networking and support for many chronic conditions. I personally use the Weight Watchers Internet site for assistance with healthy eating and weight management and find it very helpful. In the future, I am certain we will see more interactive health information functions such as remotely accessed physician visits. It will be exciting to witness the evolution of healthcare in relation to informatics and technology in the upcoming years.

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