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The Future of the Internet in Healthcare

By Mary Cain and Robert Mittman

has discovered the Internet and the Internet has discovered ! A rapidly growing number of Internet sites are dedicated to helping consumers find the information they need to make decisions about their health and . Patients are creating online communities that provide peer support, information on the latest research, and personal stories about their experiences. professionals are using the Internet for research, to get access to the latest information in their field, to consult with their colleagues, and to keep in touch with their patients. Almost every business from insurer to hospital to pharmaceutical company has a Web site.

Why is the use of the Internet in healthcare growing so quickly? How sustainable is that growth? What kinds of health-related applications will develop over the next five years? How will the Internet affect healthcare delivery and health outcomes? In all the excitement about the Internet, there inevitably will be unrealistic expectations about its impact on the . This forecast sorts through the current hype to give a realistic assessment of the pace and direction of change for the next five years.


The major driving forces that are pushing the Internet into health and healthcare are strong and unstoppable; they ensure that the Internet increasingly will be integrated in our healthcare.

21st Century Healthcare Consumers.  By 2005, more than half of U.S. consumers will have high household incomes, some college education, and access to a computer at home or at work. Healthcare consumers of the future will be more actively involved in making decisions about the healthcare they receive. They will expect high levels of choice, control, customer service, interaction with their , and access to information. They will use the Internet to help meet those expectations.

Consumer Experiences with Other Industries. Internet Shopping and E-Mail. Consumers’ experiences in other areas, particularly the responsiveness and choice they get from Internet shopping and the interaction they get using electronic mail, will shape the expectations they bring to health and healthcare. Parts of the healthcare industry will meet those expectations with online information and services and succeed. Others will not respond as well.

The Characteristics of the Internet.  The Internet as a channel for and communications is well-suited to fulfill consumer expectations. It is inexpensive, easy to use, provides a diversity of healthcare information, and opens its users to a global network of people with common interests.
Market Forces in Healthcare.  Market forces have been at work in healthcare for a decade, in the form of managed care, employer purchasing coalitions, assertive government payors and regulators, and consumer organizations. Web technologies intranets, extranets, and the Internet will serve as a low cost, rapidly deployable platform for disseminating information across vertically and horizontally integrated . Managed care increases the diversity and urgency of information flow; more of that communication will move to the Internet. Competitive will use the Web as a channel to promote their services.

Download Full Case Study Here

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