On Monday, the Health Improvement Institute announced that interactive one-day workshop called “Quality of Health Information on the Internet, 10 Years On” will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland, November 12th. The purpose of the workshop is to instruct participants in the unprecedented ways that the Internet can be used as a tool for getting quality medical advice. They will hear presentations from experts regarding the future of health information online, searching for the truth, the value of trustmarks, transparency, and the evidence about evidence.
Health experts, representatives of relevant organizations, and consumers will he guided in analyzing the adequacy of net-based health information, discussing methods for publishing and evaluating health information on the Internet, and exploring strategies to improve the quality and utility of online health information.
Consumers are more and more using and depending upon the Internet to retrieve health and medical information.
“Continuation of these trends, current pressures for transparency, and employers’ shift to consumer-directed health plans will help to ensure that the Internet becomes the dominant mode of accessing health information, with potentially profound implications for people’s health, our health care system, and society generally,” said Peter Goldschmidt, the Institute’s Founder and President and the workshop’s organizer.
“Health is one of the most competitive information sectors on the Web, and advertisers are spending millions of dollars on Web sites, advertising and marketing. The consumer needs a clear path to useful information, avoiding pseudo-therapies and pharma-hype,” says Beau Brendler, Director of Consumer Reports WebWatch, one of the organizations sponsoring the workshop.
Harold Varmus, the former director of the National Institutes of Health, suggested that there be a complete on-line archive put together to include all medical and biological research so that all consumers could get free and easy access to the latest medical and health-related information.
But although the scientific community has welcomed the prospect of using the Web to give fast and thorough distribution of research findings, the publishing industry for some reason does not show much enthusiasm for the proposal.
Health and medical experts agree that the most troublesome aspect of health information published on the Net is that it can be very difficult and time-consuming for even an intelligent layman to weed out the fiction and accurately decide which information is authentic and which is bogus.
Yet, despite the potential pitfalls, the Internet has become an invaluable tool for increasing the general health literacy levels of the population-a factor that has recently received attention as one that could, if significantly improved, have such an impact on health matters that it could be the single most important factor in making health insurance affordable to all Americans.
Professionally overseen websites such as the highly popular Web MD attest to the power of using the Internet to make the average person more literate in matters of health and medicine.