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SciPICH Publications IconWired for Health and Well-Being: The Emergence of Interactive Health Communication

Editors: Thomas R. Eng, David H. Gustafson

Suggested Citation: Science Panel on Interactive Communication and Health. Wired for Health and Well-Being: the Emergence of Interactive Health Communication.  Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, US Government Printing Office, April 1999.

Download in PDF format:  [Entire Document] [References]

Appendix F: Potential Activities For Clinicians In Promoting An "Information- Friendly" Practice

  • Familiarize yourself with the spectrum and functions of interactive health communication (IHC) technologies. Educate yourself about ways to evaluate their quality and impact, especially health information on the Internet. Attend seminars and meetings in this emerging area. Consult with knowledgeable colleagues.
  • Learn how to use Web search engines to locate health information. Start by learning how to use popular search mechanisms, such as healthfinder®1 ( and Medline2 ( Consult with medical librarians about search strategies.
  • Encourage your patients to be active participants in their health care and share clinical decisions by enlisting them to learn more about their condition. Provide standard written guidance about how to find high-quality and relevant information resources and how to be an informed consumer of IHC. When you give your patient or family members information about a diagnosis, test, or other health issue, write down some keywords clearly on an "information prescription" and suggest how they may be able to find additional information on Web sites and in journals, books, and other resources that you have selected. Invite patients to bring in information that they have found. Survey your patients about how your practice can become more "information-friendly."
  • Develop and implement information technology (including Web site) policies, standards, and practices that promote quality, privacy, and confidentiality. These should address who can access, add to, or modify Web sites; security measures to protect against external tampering; and encryption for e-mail containing medical records and other patient information.
  • Create a Web site for your practice that may include office information and links to Web sites that you judge to be appropriate. Encourage patients to communicate with you and your staff by e-mail. Sponsor or host a listserv, Web forum, or newsletter to allow patients to support each other and share useful information resources on a regular basis. Participate in online discussion groups to learn about the needs of patients.
  • Provide patient access to the Internet in your office or waiting area, and place terminals in locations that are accessible while maintaining privacy and confidentiality. "Bookmark" high-quality and relevant sites on the Web browser.
  • Designate a staff member to serve as the leader and coordinator for information technology issues (much like an information technology specialist or chief information officer in a business or organization). He or she should regularly surf the Web and peruse reviews of IHC applications for information relevant to the clinicians and patients in the practice, such as late-breaking research from news sites and online journals. This person also could identify and monitor major Web sites, listservs, and online support groups that are most relevant to the practice. This person does not have to be a health professional, but should be someone with an interest in technology and some training.
  • Advocate for evaluation of IHC applications before you endorse them to your patients. Health care professionals should demand evidence of efficacy and safety, just as they do for other health interventions.

1 healthfinder® is a federally sponsored gateway consumer health information Web site that provides selected online publications, clearinghouses, databases, links to Web sites, and information about support and self-help groups. Sources include government agencies and nonprofit organizations that produce reliable information for the public.
2 Medline is now available to clinicians and the general public for free and can be searched through either Internet Grateful Med or PubMed. The National Library of Medicine site also provides access to other important resources for clinicians and the public, such as clinical practice guidelines.


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Comments:   Updated: 05/01/08