How the Internet Is Transforming the Physician-Patient Relationship

James G. Anderson, PhD, Professor of Medical Sociology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

In This Article

The Challenge of the Internet

Physicians are coming to realize that the Internet and other information technologies will change the way they practice medicine. These new technologies permit physicians to more rapidly access medical information and patient records and to collect data directly from patients. Applications such as palm-based prescription writers have the potential to reduce prescription errors. At the same time, adoption of these technologies is slow. New applications must be easy to adopt and use, must meet physician needs, and must be cost-effective, not just for the healthcare organization but also for the physician.

The next generation of the Internet will allow practitioners and consumers to access global medical knowledge bases. Linkages among sources and databases along with intelligent software will help Internet users find pertinent medical information.[17] Patients will increasingly come to the physician with information from the Internet about illness and treatment. The quality of this information, at present, is extremely variable in terms of its reliability and completeness. Some information may be false and can actually be harmful.[18] However, physicians can assist patients in finding and interpreting reliable and up-to-date information. In doing so, they will make the physician-patient relationship more productive. Convincing physicians to take the lead in building new relationships with their patients by using newly available Internet technologies is just the latest challenge facing the medical community.[19]


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