Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Google Me This

What do many do when they are sick? Call a doctor? Call mom? Ask a friend or relative?

They get on the internet.

What's so bad about that?

Nothing as long as you know where you are going and have an idea about the accuracy of the information that comes up.

Microsoft’s software animates more than 90 percent of all personal computers, while Google is the default starting point for most health searches. And people are increasingly turning to their computers and the Web for health information and advice. A Harris poll, published last month, found that 52 percent of adults sometimes or frequently go to the Web for health information, up from 29 percent in 2001.

52% go to the web in search of answers. But what kind of answers are they getting?

According to the Harris survey, 58 percent of people who look online for health information discussed what they found with their doctors in the last year.

This is a good thing, up to a point. But how many people will self diagnose, and then self treat a problem that may be more serious than they suspect (or even want to admit)?

How many more will find themselves disagreeing with the doctor, and then start looking for a practitioner who will confirm their diagnosis?

Yet personal health records promise to be a thorny challenge for practical and privacy reasons. To be most useful, a consumer-controlled record would include medical and treatment records from doctors, hospitals, insurers and laboratories. Under federal law, people can request and receive their personal health data within 90 days. But the process is complicated, and the replies typically come on paper, as photocopies or faxes.

Protected health information is a thorny topic. How will this information be handled without compromise?

Stay tuned.
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