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Advantages And Disadvantages Of Internet Health Care

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Internet Health Care

The internet has become a major contributor to everyday living, from shopping to renting movies to researching personal health issues. Today, there are thousands of internet websites that can be used to access health information. Anything from researching and ordering prescription medications, to learning about illnesses, or even chatting online with trained physicians can be found via the internet. Although there are many benefits of internet health care, there are also many problems that can arise from using this information. So, should health care services be available on the internet? That question will be answered by discussing the advantages and the disadvantages of internet health care.

Advantages of Internet Health Care

Over the past couple hundred years, the way that health care is delivered has changed dramatically due to the building of hospitals, advancements in surgery, and the rise of the internet. In the past 10 years there has been a major shift in the Health Care industry due to the rise of internet health care services. Before the internet, if health problems were to arise in an individual, he/she was generally taken care of in the doctor's office or by home remedies. If any questions were to arise about the health of yourself or others, the expertise of a doctor or nurse was generally needed. However, due to the rise of the internet, health issues and questions about anything from medications to illnesses can easily be obtained in a matter of seconds. Also, being able to communicate with doctors or order prescriptions online has proved to be a huge advantage. In the next few paragraphs, the advantages of internet health care services and its impact on the health care industry will be discussed.

Researching Medications Online

The internet has been a huge advantage to the health care industry for many reasons, one being the use of the internet to research medications. There are thousands of sites on the internet that contain information on any thing from medications and their uses to finding out about diseases and their causes. One such website is, where hundreds of medications can be researched. Everything about a drug is listed from what illnesses the drug treats down to its structural formula. Studies show that 71.5% of people who used internet health care sites to do research felt more knowledgeable about their illness and the medications they were taking. (8th HON Survey, Health on the Net Foundation, May-June 2002, pg. 3)

Researching Illnesses

Other websites such as can be used as a very resourceful web page to search illnesses. Any question one may have about an illness or disease can be answered. This access to information is very good for people who do not understand their illness and its side effects. For instance, when a doctor informs the patient about their illness, many patients do not understand the doctor's terminology. With, the patient is able to do further research about their illness in words and phrases they can understand. Studies show that 52% of patients who discussed the results of internet searches with their health care providers found the consultation more constructive. (8th HON Survey, Health on the Net Foundation, May-June 2002, pg. 4) They were actually able to communicate with the doctor as well as the doctor being able to communicate with them. So, the internet can be used to do research on illnesses and medications, but what about using the internet to communicate with doctors and order prescriptions?

Communicating with Doctors Online

The internet is becoming an important alternative for patients and health care providers to share information with one another. The patient is now able to email or chat with the doctor about any questions they may have, as well as the doctor being able to inform the patient of any new medications or alternative medicine that will help the healing process. The figure below shows how the internet plays a major role in the delivery of health care:

Opportunities for the Internet in Healthcare

Clearly, one of the benefits of the internet is its ability to provide real-time communications with doctors without having to transport patients to and from the doctor's office. This also helps with expenses associated with office visits. Of course, the quality of the services rendered over the internet is a big concern for patients and doctors at this point in time. One of the key concerns is the possibility of websites giving out false information on questions asked about the health of a person. This is why only official, or approved, websites should be used to retrieve health information.

Ordering Prescriptions Online

Another advantage is the use of the internet to order prescriptions or refills on prescriptions. For instance, if you keep in contact with your doctor via emails, it is a time saver for the doctor to prescribe medications without the patient having to come into the office. Also, being able to get on official pharmacies web-sites that patients use to order refills is a time saver. However, there are websites that illegally sell medications or counterfeit medications to places around the world. There have been many investigations focused on private practices in different countries that are making millions selling medications online without a prescription. That issue will be discussed further in the paper. Again, although there are advantages for online pharmacies, there are some websites that problems could arise from. Only official, or approved, websites should be used to get prescriptions filled. There are many groups now that are trying to take that step and are pushing hard for healthcare providers to exercise a great deal of caution when they utilize the internet to render services. There are groups that have set a code of ethics for internet healthcare providers to follow. Some of these groups are as follows: the Internet Healthcare Coalition (IHC), which introduced an eHealth Code of Ethics, American Medical Association, the Health on the Net Foundation (HON), and Health Internet Ethics (Hi-Ethics). Other groups, such as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (URAC), offer validation programs and seals of approval that let consumers know specific web sites that follow ethical guidelines. The ethics movement prefers a self-regulatory



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