Your patients and an estimated 90,000,000 other people in this country2 are among the growing number of users of the Internet for communication, business, purchases, and information. The changing doctor-patient relationships under managed care, as well as other time pressures, have increased the demand on both the patient and the physician for medical information. The Internet is increasingly used in our daily lives as a means of communication and commerce, and our patients see use of the Internet as a resource for information on health and wellness as a natural extension. The quality of this information, however, is extremely variable. Our patients would not drink water from a source they did not trust, and a source of medical information should be subjected to equal scrutiny.
Physicians have traditionally advised their patients about what to do and how to do it, and they have been respected for the guidance that they have provided. Patients are counting on the medical profession to maintain this role, and many are looking for the decision-making process in health care to revert to the hands of doctors and their patients. Physicians and medical groups as well as our educational institutions are currently harnessing the potential of digital medical information to assist in the personal encounter between physicians and the public. Eighty-five percent of physicians surveyed are currently using the Internet, an increase in online activity by doctors of 875 percent compared with that reported in 19974. While no web site can provide the comfort …
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