I applaud your Aug. 16 editorial on consumerism (p. 34) blossoming in healthcare as being right on target. For healthcare organizations to thrive, they must be more patient- and consumer-focused. VHA's research over the past two years on behalf of our 1,850 member healthcare organizations supports your message that consumers are demanding access to credible health information, a more active role in their healthcare, better relationships with their doctors and control over personal medical data.
With consumers' increasing use of the Internet to gather health information, healthcare professionals must take responsibility as the leading advocates for patients' rights and the privacy of information.
It is disconcerting to see that many health information World Wide Web sites have little or no quality control. Others are so driven by the need for profits that they sell consumer information obtained on their sites without regard for patients' privacy. Hospitals and physicians must be unwavering advocates for the privacy of patient information, including any developed in the new Internet world.
We at VHA believe that just as the information exchanged between patient and physician is private, so must interchanges among Web site visitors be private.
C. Thomas Smith
President and chief executive officer