INTERNET’S IMPACT ON HEALTH CARE INFORMATION
The Internet’s Impact on Health Care Information
The Internet’s Impact on Health Care Information
This paper explores some of the best and well-known cites and sites around the world for information and health care. Early in the 21st century, the World Health Organization made its first attempt to rank the quality of health care in approximately 200 countries. (NYT, 2007) The WHO ranked the countries’ health care based on factors such as fairness, quality, access, insurance coverage, patient satisfaction, and use of information technology among other factors. (NYT, 2007) According to this research, some of countries in the world that provide the best health care overall are France, Italy, Malta, Japan, and Monaco, among others. (NYT, 2007) As much as the United States of America boasts at being the best in the world at nearly everything, United States health care was not in even the top thirty countries ranked by the WHO. Even still, there are a number of specialised centres within nearly every country, no matter its rank, that provides exceptional care and is a worthy contribution to the health community whether in real life or virtually.
The first clinic to be examined is the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic was established during the American Civil War by Dr. W.W. Mayo in Minnesota. He was an Englishman with a talent and zeal for medicine. Eventually his sons joined the practice and became equally, if not more so talented, establishing a firm tradition of aptitude and specialty in the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic has professionals on staff in a plethora of specialties. Patients from around the world seek the advice and the assistance of the Mayo Clinic. It is a clinic that is most known for its model for integrated group practice, which includes increased communication among the health care professionals servicing a particular patient as well as an approach that treats the entire person and not only the disease or condition. (MFMRE, 2012)
Another exceptional facility that provides quality care and online information is the Cuba Memorial Hospital. Cuba has a long and definitive history of providing exceptional medicare care and medical training. Cuba is often one of the first countries to provide assistance, primarily in the form of medical assistance when there is a national or natural disaster such as the Haiti earthquake, Japan earthquake & tsunami, and many others. The Instituto Superior de Ciencas Medicas de la Habana as part of the University of Havana. It is arguably the best hospital in Cuba. They describe themselves as “professional revolutionaries of the Health Sciences.” (UCMH, 2012)
Other websites of note from the United States are those by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and one of their sister organisations, the National Institutes of Health. Though these websites are by organisations in the states, they provide information and links to information on health from a more worldly perspective. These organisations in of themselves are a part of extensive networks and they make a strong effort to translate those networks into links and information online.
For non-Americans, these sites are extremely reputable resources of information, from treatments, to side effects, to support groups, to facilities, to general info from the perspective of the patient or person in the life of the patient. These sites a great medical databases of medical information. Obviously, there are more service opportunities available for Americans, but these sites are valuable to many people despite nationality and location.
For a truly more global perspective on health, the Global Health Council has a reputable and useful website with information on a great array of health topics, including global health topics or issues. The GHC is specifically dedicated to improving overall health around the world.
The Global Health Council is the world’s largest and most diverse membership alliance dedicated to improving the health of the 2 billion people who live on less than $2 a day. Our diverse membership comprises health-care professionals and organizations that include NGOs, foundations, corporations, government agencies and academic institutions that work to ensure global health for all. They implement programs, deliver health care services, conduct research on key issues, advocate for improved policies and financial support, provide funding for global health programming, develop life-saving products and communicate the stories of success and need to the world. (GHC, 2012)
The council is a close comparison to the United Nations members when comparing the degree of diversity in its members. The council is committed to education, awareness, and thoughtful action so as to improve the quality of health and quality of life of people on Earth. (GHC, 2012)
As with any piece of technology or other type of tool, there is both negative and positive potential with its use. Certainly, there are clear and apparent advantages to the use of the internet to gather information and research health-related topics. The internet is a massive source of knowledge and information on just about every topic imaginable, which is why it is such a valuable resource. It is now common practice for reputable organisations, government agencies, and formally recognised or accredited facilities to have their own websites, and quite possibly other ways to be present on the web, such as a professional FaceBook page, LinkedIn page, Twitter or Tumblr accounts. Therefore, a strategy for web presence that includes a multifaceted approach so as to cast a wide net for potential users is wise.
Using the Internet to research the quality of health care and the quality of specific health care facilities proves to be advantageous for users as well as the centres researched. Internet users now have a different sense and depth of control over their health and health care than in other point in modern history. People can researched which facilities are in closest proximity to their location, if there are specialists available for their specific condition(s), and other personalized information.
From the perspective of this author, there are three primary disadvantages to using the Internet as a primary source to find health information. Just as with any other topic on the Internet, from health to food to parenting to shoe shopping, there is a great deal of false advertising and hoaxes. Users must be equipped with adequate information literacy or else they will fall prey more often to scams and unreliable information. The paper must note that when referring to users, the term includes those with and without professional medical training. Medical professionals that only rely on the Internet for information are acting dangerously irresponsible. Some of the most prized information for medical professionals must be read or accessed in real life, although there is significant literature, including medical journals and research made available online. Regardless, medical professionals should know better because of their training and experience.
The second disadvantage is the common perspective or practice that users will substitute actual health care with a real, live, trained, medical professional for gathering some information on their own and attempting to treat themselves. It should be fairly self explanatory as to why this is a disadvantage. Perhaps for a number of minor conditions, the Internet only may suffice, but users must follow up by contacting a representative of the organisation the site in question represents.
In the Internet age, there has been a worldwide increase in agoraphobia — the fear of leaving one’s home. Because the Internet services people, specifically at their homes to such great detail, in some ways the Internet feeds agoraphobia and many other expressions of social anxiety that keep people from interacting directly with others. This behavior is widespread; thus the implications of even a small percentage of people online have even mild society anxiety and only use the Internet for health care are quite stark and dangerous. The Internet has ushered in a new era of the DIY (Do it Yourself) capability and spirit, but when it comes to one’s health, one should leave it to the professionals, whether normative or alternative.
The third disadvantage is that with the deluge of information on innumerable topics online, there is a higher likelihood for the occurrence and recurrence of hypochondria. Hypochondriacs are essentially people that think they are ill when they are not. They are exceptionally impressionable to information and media regarding health. The Internet in a way is a hypochondriac’s dream: it is essentially an endless database of medical conditions, injuries, and diseases with endless amounts of information about symptoms and end results. Hypochondria can exacerbate health care professionals and centres, wasting time, resources, and even care on people who have been overwhelmed by the health information available online to the point where they are excessively accessing health care in some form.
Global Health Council. (2012). Health Linkages. Web, Available from: http://www.globalhealth.org/Health_Linkages.html. 2012 August 26.
Mayo Foundation for Medical Research and Education. (2012). Mayo Clinic. Web, Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/. 2012 August 26.
National Institutes of Health. (2012). Health Information. Web, Available from: http://health.nih.gov/. 2012 August 26.
No listed author. (2007). Editorial — World’s best health care? The New York Times, Web, Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/opinion/12sun1.html?pagewanted=all. 2012 August 26.
United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). News, Prevention, & Diseases. Web, Available from: http://www.hhs.gov/. 2012 August 26.
Universidad de Ciencas Medicas de la Habana. (2012). UCMH. Web, Available from: http://instituciones.sld.cu/ucmh/. 2012 August 26.
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