Magazine article Information Today

Health Care on the Information Superhighway

Magazine article Information Today

Health Care on the Information Superhighway

Article excerpt

A new survey suggests that the information revolution is redefining access to health care. Consumers are more accepting of health information, including advice about treatment received through a telephone or online service, even if it means giving up a face-to-face visit with a care provider.

These are among the findings of a statewide survey sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (BCBSM). The survey was released recently at a national conference in Minneapolis entitled, "Health Care on the Superhighway: The Information Management Revolution."

The survey was conducted last October among benefit decision makers in companies with 100 or more employees and among Minnesota residents who receive health care coverage from an employer with 100 or more workers.

"The survey is the clearest evidence to date of how dramatically access to health care is being redefined by both employers and employees," said Jim Woodburn, M.D., medical director of national accounts for Blue Plus, the HMO affiliate of BCBSM. "How people get information - and in some cases, even treatment - is less important than the quality and convenience of the information."

Woodburn said that personal contact with care providers remains important for many health-related issues, but giving up some face-to-face contact might be an acceptable trade-off for health information received over the telephone or with a computer.

The survey asked consumers and employers to evaluate three different electronic services. The most highly regarded by both groups is a 24-hour telephone service in which a nurse diagnoses a health problem and provides the caller with recommendations for self-treatment.

About eight out of 10 health care consumers surveyed - 77 percent - said they would use such a service, and 81 percent of employers in companies of more than 100 employees would be likely to offer the service if it was available.

A telephone or online service that provides information on health care topics of general interest would be used by 63 percent of the consumers and offered by 61 percent of employers, according to the survey.

The third option posed in the survey - telephone or online directories that list health care providers and specific information on quality of care, patient satisfaction measures, and fees - would likely be used by 60 percent of consumers and 61 percent of employers. …

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