In a new position paper the American College of Physicians (ACP) says that collaboration among physicians, patients, technology developers, and policymakers must occur if e-health activities like electronic communication between physicians and their patients, remote monitoring of patients, personal and electronic health records, and patients seeking health information online are to transform health care in the U.S.

The paper, "E-Health and Its Impact on Medical Practice," analyzes the benefits, technical and financial challenges, and legal issues related to adopting and implementing e-health activities for physicians and patients. The challenges for implementing e-health activities effectively, ACP says, lie not only in the adoption of universal technical standards for the exchange of electronic health information, but also in a more fundamental concern of economic support for health information technology.

For physicians, the financial costs of purchasing systems and incorporating e-health offerings can be considerable. A significant legal reason why physicians are reluctant to communicate via e-mail is because of the potential lack of security in using this technology and its impact on patient confidentiality and privacy.

ACP, therefore, recommends the use of secure Web messaging infrastructure rather than standard e-mail to ensure the highest levels of privacy and confidentiality that are currently available for electronic communications between physicians and their patients. Records of communication must be protected in accord with the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

MEDICA.de; Source: American College of Physicians