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Digital Medicine

Digital Medicine: Health Care in the Internet Era

Darrell M. West
Edward Alan Miller
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 183
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  • Book Info
    Digital Medicine
    Book Description:

    Information technology has dramatically changed our lives in areas ranging from commerce and entertainment to voting. Now, policy advocates and government officials hope to bring the benefits of enhanced information technology to health care. Already, consumers can access a tremendous amount of medical information online. Some physicians encourage patients to use email or web messaging to manage simple medical issues. Increasingly, health care products can be purchased electronically.Yet the promise of e-health remains largely unfulfilled.

    Digital Medicineinvestigates the factors limiting digital technology's ability to remake health care. It explores the political, social, and ethical challenges presented by online health care, as well as the impact that racial, ethnic, and other disparities are having on the e-health revolution. It examines the accessibility of health-related websites for different populations and asks how we can close access gaps and ensure the reliability and trustworthiness of the information presented online.

    Darrell West and Edward Miller use multiple sources, including original survey research and website analysis, to study the content, sponsorship status, and public usage of health care-related websites, as well as the relationship between e-health utilization and attitudes about health care in the United States. They also explore the use of health information technology in other countries. The result is an important contribution to our understanding of health information innovation in America and around the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0347-1
    Subjects: Technology, Health Sciences, Public Health

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER ONE The E-Health Revolution
    (pp. 1-18)

    Websites such as,,,, and answer health-related questions and provide links to discussion groups about particular illnesses. In states such as Massachusetts, California, New York, and Michigan, consumers can visit state health department sites and compare performance data on the quality of care. The U.S. government has a website that evaluates 2,500 hospitals on mortality rates, room cleanliness, and call button response and on how their patients judge the quality of the care that they provide.¹ Some physicians encourage patients to use e-mail or web messaging instead of telephone calls or in-office visits for simple issues...

  5. CHAPTER TWO Online Content and Sponsorship Status
    (pp. 19-41)

    Visitors to the Pennsylvania Department of Health can scan holdings in a medical information clearinghouse that covers major diseases, access a list of available visiting nurses, and submit forms to register for courses on emergency medical services. The Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services allows people to use electronic forms to determine their eligibility for assistance programs, request American Sign Language interpreters, renew professional licenses, file medical claims, and see data on health care providers. States such as California, New York, and Michigan post data online so that residents can compare the quality and performance of hospitals, physicians, and...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Use of Technology
    (pp. 42-58)

    The use of technology in the United States is making progress, but it is not progressing at a rate that is transformative. For example, health care professionals are starting to rely on digital resources: half of U.S. physicians use personal digital assistants, while only 14 percent of the general population does so.¹ However, when asked in a national survey about other digital communications, only 27 percent of 1,837 responding physicians involved in direct patient care of adults said that they had adopted electronic medical records. Twenty-eight percent used e-mail to communicate with colleagues, but only 7 percent did so routinely;...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Relationship between Use of Digital Technology and Attitudes toward Health Care
    (pp. 59-73)

    Digital materials affect how people make decisions regarding their health and medical care. For example, Baker and others found in a national public opinion survey that one-third of respondents using the Internet for health purposes claimed that such electronic resources had positively influenced their health care choices. In particular, respondents stated that digital medicine altered the way that they ate, exercised, or managed their health care needs and that it improved their general understanding of medical symptoms, conditions, and treatments.¹

    However, analysts remain divided over the relationship between individuals’ use of electronic health resources and their assessment of the health...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Digital Disparities
    (pp. 74-85)

    Eliminating disparities in health care in the United States has been a national priority for a number of years.¹ Inequality is a problem with regard to race and ethnicity in particular. Because of the country’s history of slavery and discrimination, it has been difficult to produce equality of opportunity or results. People of different backgrounds experience varying degrees of access and present clear contrasts in health care quality and outcomes.

    Gaps in mortality and disease rates persist across income and racial lines. There are well-known economic and racial disparities in infant deaths, cardiovascular disease, and age-adjusted death rates for diabetes.²...

  9. CHAPTER SIX Information Acquisition
    (pp. 86-96)

    As documented in earlier chapters, considerable differences exist between public and private health care websites. Commercial sites are much more likely to have product ads, to be unclear about who their sponsors are, and to create real or potential conflicts of interest. In contrast, government sites rarely feature ads, clearly are noncommercial in nature, and do not present the financial conflicts of interest seen with some private sites.¹ They do not attempt to sell commercial products or push services linked to financial backers.

    Those contrasts make it crucial to understand the type of people who visit different kinds of websites....

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN International Comparisons
    (pp. 97-117)

    A number of countries around the world have been successful at introducing technology into health care. The United Kingdom and New Zealand, for example, are far ahead of the United States in adoption of electronic health records by doctors: while 59 percent of the more than 30,000 health providers in the United Kingdom and 80 percent of the 9,000 doctors in New Zealand rely on electronic records, only 17 percent of the 650,000 physicians in the United States do so.¹

    Other nations have invested more than the United States in health information technology, putting considerable resources into developing high-speed broadband...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Improving Digital Medicine
    (pp. 118-134)

    Our research has shown that public use of health information technology remains low; that there is little positive association between technology use and consumer attitudes about the health care system; that commercial websites typically have more ads, weaker disclosure, and greater conflicts of interest than government sites; and that a large segment of the general population (both in the United States and around the world) is not participating in the digital revolution. Together, those results cast doubt on the ability of health officials to achieve, in the short run, the service improvements, cost savings, and productivity gains desired through electronic...

    (pp. 135-139)
    (pp. 139-143)
    (pp. 143-145)
    (pp. 146-152)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 153-174)
  17. Index
    (pp. 175-183)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 184-184)