Digital Medicine: Health Care in the Internet Era

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"Although the amount of accessible information has risen dramatically in recent years, there are few content standards. Some information is incomplete or inaccurate, or it is sponsored by pharmaceutical interests with a financial stake in particular treatments. Potential conflicts of interest are important because national surveys have found that 75 percent of Americans report that they rarely check the source or date of medical resources found online."

"Race and ethnicity remain a serious problem for the future of digital medicine. Those demographic characteristics interact with age, education, literacy, and income in important respects.... It will prove difficult to gain economies of scale unless greater numbers of older, less well off, and less educated people begin to use online resources."

"The real problem in health care is not technology per se but political, social, and economic challenges that complicate the adoption of digital technologies. Ordinary people have been slow to embrace technology in managing their personal health care. Consumers worry about the confidentiality of medical records, and professionals fear that the costs of technology will outweigh the benefits. Research suggests that patients worry that the emergence of digital medicine will lower health care quality and lead to unmet health care needs."

"There is little doubt that in the short run, there will continue to be major barriers to digital medicine... In the long run, however, progress will be made on many of the current policy challenges. Health care cost projections virtually guarantee that policy innovations will be introduced and problems that slow progress now will be overcome. Health carecosts are escalating so rapidly that policymakers have little choice but to take meaningful action. Failure to act is no longer an option."

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

This book is based on an extensive public opinion survey exploring attitudes toward electronic health communications initiated by West (vice president & director of Governance Studies, Brookings Inst.) and Miller (public policy, Brown Univ.) in 2005. The authors closely examined various web sites providing medical information for readability, authority, and objectivity, and they here provide useful appendixes listing medical web sites and pertinent standards for evaluating their content. Although they briefly outline some of the problems of implementing a national health-care provider network for medical records—one of President Obama's highly publicized new initiatives—West and Miller deal primarily with the consumer side of digital medicine. Four years from now, it will be apparent to librarians that while the general public avidly seeks medical information on the web, "digital divides" of poverty, language, literacy, and generational differences still remain significant barriers to widespread implementation of digital medical consumer services. Verdict West and Miller's exploration of the costs, concerns, and possible benefits of digital medicine is both thoughtful and timely. Librarians, health advocates, and policymakers on both sides of the issue will chew on this food for thought.—Kathy Arsenault, St. Petersburg, FL

—Kathy Arsenault
From the Publisher

"West and Miller's exploration of the costs, concerns, and possible benefits of digital medicine is both thoughtful and timely. Librarians, health advocates, and policymakers on both sides of the issue will chew on this food for thought."— Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815702764
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press
  • Publication date: 4/16/2009
  • Pages: 183
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Darrell M. West is vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. Previously, he was the John Hazen White Professor of Political Science and Public Policy and director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University. He is the author of fifteen books, including Digital Government: Technology and Public Sector Performance (Princeton, 2005), Biotechnology Policy across National Boundaries (Palgrave MacMillan, 2007), and Air Wars: Television Advertising in Election Campaigns, 1952-2008 (CQ Press, 2009).

Edward Alan Miller is assistant professor of public policy, political science, and community health at Brown University and faculty associate at Brown's Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research. A former Fulbright scholar and social policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service, he is the author of more than 80 journal articles, book chapters, and reports.

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Table of Contents

1 The e-health revolution 1

2 Online content and sponsorship status 19

3 Use of technology 42

4 Relationship between use of digital technology and attitudes toward health care 59

5 Digital disparities 74

6 Information acquisition 86

7 International comparisons 97

8 Improving digital medicine 118

App. A National e-health public opinion survey 135

App. B American health Websites 139

App. C Government health department Websites around the world 143

App. D Content analysis protocol for health care Websites 146

Notes 153

Index 175

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