The Internet as a Resource for Consumer Healthcare
With emerging access to the Internet and valuable healthcare resources online, healthcare consumers have quickly adopted the World Wide Web as a resource for healthcare information. Because growing numbers of consumers are accessing healthcare information online, it is important to explore how they are using this information in healthcare decision-making, and the eventual outcomes for their health. All English-language articles indexed in Medline related to the use of Internet technology in healthcare education, and published in peer-reviewed journals between 1998 and 2000, were screened for review. 37 studies met the eligibility criteria. Although demographics remain uneven, with a distinct Internet access gap existing between the economically advantaged and disadvantaged, results of studies described in this paper support the effectiveness of Internet-delivered healthcare information in changing clinical outcomes. Electronic mail and telehealth applications hold promise as a new mode of communication and information transfer for patients and providers, while at the same time raising issues related to inaccurate and misleading information. The findings of this review support Internet-delivered technologies as an effective strategy for the transfer of data and knowledge as well as support for the patient-provider interaction. From the patient's perspective, the Internet provides information, a new mode of connection to the healthcare environment, and access to virtual support groups. Additional research is needed to assess the impact and best approaches for use of the Internet as a link to the clinical environment for communication and sharing of patient-centered clinical information.
Electronic information services, Pharmacoeconomics
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