Insights for Internists

Health care consumers appear willing to let computer technology take on the functions of a clinician. Patients and health professionals agree that using technology to enhance self-care will allow physicians more time for the chronically ill.

The personal health record (PHR) is emerging as the likely center of a technology-enabled health care system. However, patient point of view rarely factors into the development of new, health related technologies. This study analyzed a series of focus groups that generated ideas from a diverse population of health care consumers and medical professionals. Investigators scrutinized written transcripts and audio recordings of group discussions. Significant messages emerged across all groups. Analysts created structured coding categories to assess key themes.

Key Findings:

  • Consumers and health professionals share a vision of a digital self-care system that will integrate PHRs with wider information networks—via the Internet—to generate customized diagnoses and treatment suggestions.
  • Consumers would seek medical advice online from an unknown clinician and use data from their personal computers to obtain advice in cyberspace.
  • Patients favor more access to online medical records over maintaining privacy. Health professionals are more concerned about privacy issues.