Dr. Forkner-Dunn’s article discusses various ways in which the Internet is transforming the present and future of health care. For example, the Internet enables anyone to learn about medical conditions and treatments at home, communicate with their doctors via email -- even provide vital data to doctors through monitoring devices that connect to the computer and transmit information right from the body. Such net-based technologies, allowing detailed virtual interactions between physicians and patients, are more important than ever today, since an increasing number of senior citizens
live at home, for longer periods (thanks in part to medical alert
systems that allow seniors to enjoy 24/7 protection at the press of a button, in case of a health emergency). This article, excerpted below, focuses on the benefits of the Internet, and how “this medium could have a revolutionary role in retooling the trillion-dollar United States health care industry to improve patient self-management, patient satisfaction, and health outcomes”.
Public use of the Internet as a health care
tool has grown dramatically in the past few years, and this trend is expected to continue. During 2002, more than 100 million Americans will have searched online for information, including health information — an increase of 13 million from the previous year. Obtaining information from the Web is often the basis for making health decisions and is thus an influential force. Of persons surveyed in 2000 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 41% said that the Internet affected their decisions about going to a doctor, treating an illness, or questioning their doctor.
This online phenomenon is occurring while a huge population segment, the postwar "baby boomers," is moving like a tsunami through the American health care system. Thanks to modern medicine, these adults will live longer than earlier generations ever could — and will flood the health care system with chronic ailments. Moreover, in addition to making health care decisions for themselves, this population is making such decisions for their elderly parents
, many of whom have multiple chronic diseases. Baby boomers are demanding the same easy access to advanced health care technology
as is currently available to them when they do their banking or plan a vacation.