Role of Internet in healthcare

Role of Internet in healthcare

You wake up feeling a slight tickle in your throat. You try and shake it off and drink lots of water. After a few hours, it’s still there. Instead of calling your mom or making an appointment with the doctor, you head to the Internet. Today, anyone with a computer and a connection can get online and find a variety of results, ranging from simple sore throat to the more serious, like bronchitis and asthma.

The information technology revolution is being described as the most important development in the history of humankind since the industrial revolution. Characterised as  “The Third Wave” by Alvin Toffler, in his book of the same title. The computer, invented initially to process information, slowly grew into a storehouse of information. This network further acquired the capability of distributing electronically processed information to all and sundry, overcoming every conceivable form of barriers, including geographical and political.

Today, it is a global collaborative medium and a rich resource of information of all kinds — science,technology, research, education, and commerce. With continuing advances in information and communication technology, the applications of computers in medicine have increased rapidly, and have the potential to revolutionise healthcare. By re­architecturing the workplace around computer­based technology, doctors, researchers, and other healthcare providers are creating a new vision of work and organisation

Doctors and hospitals are on the social media bandwagon

A Pricewaterhouse Cooper conducted survey asked over a thousand patients and over a hundred healthcare executives what they thought of the way many healthcare companies are utilising social

media and the Web, results show the most trusted resources online are those posted by doctors (60percent), followed by nurses (56 percent), and hospitals (55 percent). Social media is becoming more and more utilised by hospitals and medical professionals as a means to convey general health information, sometimes even personalised help. Amanda Mauck, Interactive Marketing Specialist for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, thinks engaging with patients via social media is a great way to empathise with those who need comfort, not just provide relevant health news.

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“When a family posts a comment about a medical issue, we like to encourage the family to email our general account. We do this for a couple of reasons: One, to protect that patient’s privacy, and two, it is easier to put the family in touch with the right person on our team for help,” Mauck explains.

The challenges to Internet healthcare

Of course there’s a downside to doctors becoming too available online. The Internet is almost always The  opposite of private — sensitive subjects like physical and mental ailments can easily be revealed by the person suffering from them or the doctor treating them through a tweet or a comment. Social relationships between doctor and patient can also be easily muddled? many health institutions discourage staff from “friending” patients on Facebook and other social media platforms at the risk of jeopardizing treatment as well as reputations.

The Wall Street Journal mentions a survey published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine back in 2011 that revealed 35 percent of respondents who are practicing physicians have received friend requests from patients on their personal social network accounts, and 58 percent of them always reject them.

Key issues include defining the essence of the patient­provider relationship, establishing guidelines and training for practicing online medicine and therapy, setting standards for ethical online research, determining guidelines for providing quality healthcare information and ethical conduct for medical and health websites.

This ethical responsibility to patients is often in direct conflict with the business model of generating profits. Healthcare professionals involved in Medical Internet Ethics need to define the scope of competent medical and healthcare on the Internet. The emerging ethical issues facing medicine on the Internet, the current state of medical ethics on the Internet and questions for future directions of study in this evolving field are reviewed in this paper.

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ZOL Zimbabwe is proud to be the official internet service provider for ICASA 2015 along with Liquid Telecoms Zimbabwe. This is the 18th ICASA conference and is the biggest AIDS conference in Africa with over ten thousand local, regional and international delegates. The conference theme “AIDS in Post 2015 Era: Linking Leadership, Science & Human Rights” engages the whole continent and all stakeholders in the post MDG framework, where sustainability of the response in reaching 90, 90, 90 of UNAIDS will not be possible if Human Rights are not key priority for a new vision of leadership in the context of strengthening the application of science based evidence.

The 18th ICASA is an opportunity to renew this global commitment by drawing the world’s attention to the fact that the legacy is now under threat as a result of the global economic downturn. This year’s ICASA is an opportunity for the international community, and all Africans, to join efforts in committing to achieving an AIDS­free Africa. Given the urgency of the issue we are anticipating 7 000 — 10 000 of the world’s leading scientists, policy makers, activists, PLHIV, government leaders — as well as a number of heads of state and civil society representatives — will be joining the debate on how to achieve this vision.

The conference will be chaired by Dr Ihab Abdel Rhaman Ahmed, an epidemiologist and president of the Society for AIDS in Africa (SAA). It will be co­chaired by Drs Pagwesese, David Parirenyatwa, Health and Child care Minister representing the Government of Zimbabwe.

The conference will be an excellent opportunity to promote inter­sectoral achievements in the AIDS response and to strengthen the partnership among governments, civil society, and development partners.