With the healthcare applications of Internet technology limping along, some are kicking it while it's down.
Hailed for its ability to transform the healthcare industry, the Internet could take decades to create economic efficiencies, according to a study by healthcare economist J.D. Kleinke published in the November/December issue of Health Affairs.
In his study, Kleinke argues that the Internet could actually make some problems worse before making them better.
"The Internet will exacerbate rather than solve the cost of utilization problems of a healthcare system in which patients demand more, physicians are economically and legally motivated to supply more, and public and private purchasers are expected to pay the resulting bills," he wrote.
Meanwhile, possibly clouding vendors' vision of providing online healthcare services to consumers, only 7% of those polled by Gallup said they are willing to store or transmit personal health information over the Internet. The survey was commissioned by MedicAlert Foundation, Turlock, Calif., which provides health information to emergency medical personnel.
Separately, 82% of nearly 10,000 internal medicine physicians surveyed report using computers for personal or professional reasons; but only 6% consult computers while seeing patients, according to a report released earlier this month by the the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine. While 58% use e-mail daily, just 7% said they exchange e-mail with patients on a daily or weekly basis. Physicians said they access hospital patient records with a computer 25% of the time. About 20% said their office medical records are at least partly computer-based.
And, the American Medical Association's for-profit Web services subsidiary, Medem, reported earlier this monththat just 10% of physicians use e-mail to communicate with patients. Concerns about the security of electronic information is a major reason physicians don't embrace e-mail, according to more than half of the 700 physicians Medem surveyed last month. Physician practice Web sites, however, are growing. For example, the share of pediatricians with Web sites rose to 46% in October from 38% in August 1999.