subhdvirtual.GIF (34068 bytes)Conference Examines
How Internet Is Changing Health Care

Secretary Shalala & Surgeon General Satcher to Unveil healthfinder™ Enhancements


April 28, 1998—The dynamic impact of the Internet and other interactive technologies on personal health and the practice of medicine is the subject of a one-day, national conference, Partnerships For Networked Consumer Health Information, to be held at the National Press Club located at 529 14th Street, NW, 13th floor, WDC, on Tuesday, April 28th. At the opening session, starting at noon, DHHS Secretary Shalala and the new Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher will unveil enhancements to the government’s gateway web site for health information,

The annual Partnerships conferences are the premier forum for bringing vision and direction to the developments created by the explosion of consumer health web sites and other sophisticated interactive online programs. Now in its fourth year, Partnerships ‘98 will offer answers to timely questions such as: what criteria can be used to judge Internet health information as sound; what price does society pay for not ensuring that important health information is available for all its citizens (especially those with the heaviest health burdens); how can critical judgement be widely fostered; what protection could and should society create and enforce — and the role of the public and private sectors in all of this.

Joining the Secretary and the Surgeon General at the luncheon presentations are Dr. Warner V. Slack, Associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Editor of "M.D. Computing," and author of "Cybermedicine;" and Dr. David Meyerson, host of the "Health Talk" radio show sponsored by Johns Hopkins, who will moderate a talk-show-like panel discussion. Also on the panel will be Michael Brown, author of the recent, groundbreaking FIND/SVP study on doctors’ use of, and attitudes about, the Internet, and a previous study of consumers’ use of online health information. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, other seminal thinkers and leaders in the field of consumer health information will share their perspectives.

"From doctors and patients who are communicating with each other by e-mail to the greater utilization of consumer health web sites, the Internet offers dramatic new options to help meet the public's need to get more involved with decisions about their own health," says Mary Jo Deering, Partnerships Steering Committee Chair, and Director of Health Communication and Telehealth within HHS.

Following the luncheon, a 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. plenary titled, Health Illiteracy Costs and Opportunities Through Technology will focus on the huge medical costs incurred by people unable to find, understand, and act on important health information. It will include a discussion of relevant federal policy, a view from the state perspective presented by Governor Cecil H. Underwood of West Virginia, and advice from a health advocate.

Concurrent breakout sessions in the afternoon from 3:45 - 5:15 p.m. will be: Session A: Innovative Programs for Ensuring Access to Health Information and Education: This session will highlight programs (including one from Michigan and one from Colorado) that have been highly successful in reaching high-risk populations, and an initiative to bring Internet access and training to low income housing.

Session B: Benefits and Beyond: Moving from Online Benefits Information to Multifunction Consumer Services: This session will examine how health plans have been relatively slow to provide comprehensive electronic resources information (in stark contrast to financial services and banking) even though surveys show that consumers are increasingly interested in such access.

Session C: Approaches to Ensuring Quality Health Information on the Internet: This session examines the serious concerns regarding the accuracy, quality, and health impact of Internet health information and interactive programs, and the possibility that inaccurate or inappropriate health information will result in individuals receiving inappropriate treatment or delaying health-care.

TECHNOLOGY SHOWCASE: Throughout the day, developers will debut and demonstrate innovative web sites and the latest applications that promote the development of high quality interactive health communications, including those that: provide comprehensive health "knowledge-bases" for consumers; help consumers comparison shop for services offered by hospitals and Medicare managed care plans; educate children; provide individualized online support for care-givers; and assist clinicians in shared decision making with patients.

RECEPTION/GAMES: Technology Showcase products will be participating in friendly Consumer Health Informatics (CHI) Games designed to foster audience interaction and feedback. The conference will culminate in a reception from 5:15 - 7:00 p.m., hosted by Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Dean of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, during which awards will be given to the winners of the CHI Games. Other speakers at the reception will include Tom Ferguson, Senior Associate, Center For Clinical Computing, and author of "Health Online," who will share early results of his recent survey of online self-helpers’ assessment of their physicians.

According to Partnerships’ Mary Jo Deering, "In the not too distant future, many doctors will be recommending web sites to patients. Driving this change is not just that the average doctor’s visit is 8 minutes long, but that patients are setting the pace as greater and greater numbers of them use the Internet to find health information. This year's Partnerships cartoon brings home this notion of an ‘information prescription,’ — it’s an image of a doctor saying to a patient, ‘Take two web sites and e-mail me in the morning.’"

healthfinder™:  In a videotaped message for last year’s Partnerships meeting, when healthfinder™ was first launched, Vice President Gore said, "We hear a lot about how managed care is changing our health care system. What we don't hear is how consumers themselves are changing it. They are increasingly active in managing their own health and medical care. More and more, they are turning to the Internet to get the information they need."

healthfinder™’s core offerings include online and print publications, clearinghouses, referral services, research and clinical information, databases, discussion, and self-help groups. With usage of the site still rising at nearly 10-15 percent a month, healthfinder™ is meeting increased consumer demand for health and medical information by expanding its resources on an ongoing basis. In just under a year healthfinder™ has provided information to 1.7 million users, and scored 33 million hits. Touted as one of the easiest and most comprehensive sites for health and medical information, healthfinder™ has also won many awards.

"The Internet is empowering consumers to do more for themselves. But, at a time when users are going so far as basing their healthcare decisions on knowledge gained on the Internet, it becomes critical that that information is reliable and credible," says Ms. Deering, healthfinder™’s Team Manager. healthfinder™ is managed by HHS’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in collaboration with many other agencies.

The Partnerships ‘98 Conference is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Annenberg School for Communication, and the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Those interested in more information can go to the conference home page at The public can attend by registering on-site for various parts or the whole conference, and paying the corresponding fee.

PARTNERSHIPS FOR NETWORKED CONSUMER HEALTH INFORMATION, 1998: Tuesday, April 28 in Washington, DC at the National Press Club


NOTE: Several speakers in addition to most of those highlighted, are available for interview. Statistical and contextual materials to help in building stories are also available. For all media queries, including registering for the conference, call Rosie Dempsey, Media Relations Director, at 202-832-4633 or e-mail

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