Key Words: Internet — trends, World Wide Web — trends, health information, information seeking
The growing presence of the Internet and more recently of its graphical, hypertext component, the World Wide Web, offers exciting possibilities for the delivery of health information for both consumers and health professionals. The Internet provides broad accessibility: 24-hours a day, to those who may be home-bound or in remote areas. It offers the possibility of egalitarian access to information that can lead to more informed decision-making by individuals. It enables users to cross political boundaries, as well as those of culture, race, and gender.
Web use is reported to have taken less than 5 years to reach 25% of the US population (Werner, 1998). A synthesis of marketing research by eMarketer found the demographics of these users are beginning to parallel those of the middle class (Levins, 1998). The predominant activity is the use of e-mail (94% of users), followed by the gathering of news and information (74%). In fact, a recent news article reported that 40% of all Internet searches are for medical information (Davis, 1998). A survey of over 1,900 physicians by the American Medical Association in fall 1997 found 20% identified themselves as Web users and that the sites most frequently visited were for medical information — MEDLINE, Physicians Online, AMA, and the Centers for Disease Control ("Physicians Get Advice," 1998).
Such indicators strongly suggest that this medium will increasingly impact how health care is delivered and consumed. Particularly in the managed care environment, Internet resources serve the individual as health care consumer, providing access to lay as well as clinical information. As dramatic, are the possibilities for nurses and other health care professionals. The Internet offers, not only the capability to obtain information needed to provide current and informed patient care, but to communicate with colleagues and patients. It provides opportunities for ongoing professional development that are no longer time- or place-bound. And it offers nurses the opportunity to tap the growing store of consumer health information to guide and aid their patients.
Why this column? To capitalize on the potential of the Internet for professional development and patient care, nurses need to be knowledgeable users of information and have the requisite set of information management skills. The Editors of OJIN have determined that a column dedicated to discussion of the availability and use of networked information is in keeping with the Journal's objectives to address issues facing the profession. My goals as column editor and as a health sciences librarian are to provide an awareness of useful and valid information resources and to contribute to the development of information management skills-searching, evaluating, and managing of information-so that readers might utilize these resources more fully and incorporate information seeking into their regular professional routines.
Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.
Barbara F. Schloman, PhD, AHIP
Director, Library Information Services
Libraries & Media Services
Kent State University
Kent, OH 44242
E-mail address: email@example.com
Davis, R. (1998, November 6). Web searcher heal thyself? New site touted. USA Today, p. 4A.
Levins, H. (1998). Big net news: It's not news anymore. MediaINFO.com, Editor & Publisher supplement, (September), 2.
Physicians get advice on the Web. (1998). American Medical News, 41(36), 23.
Werner, C. (1998). Health care e-commerce, still in its infancy, but growing fast. Health Industry Trends, 61(9), 9.