The Role of the Internet Healthcare Physician - Part 1: A Second Chance

The Internet Healthcare physician's responsibility will extend beyond the direct responsibility for each patient's care.

Internet Healthcare Physicians are tremendously empowered and, as Peter Parker said, “with great power comes great responsibility”. There is no one in society more deserving of this power and more capable of being responsible for improving the quality of patient care than the physicians caring for these patients right now.

The Internet Healthcare physician’s responsibility will extend beyond the direct responsibility for each patient’s care, which is the primary responsibility of every physician today. The Internet Healthcare Physician’s responsibilities will be greater because they will take responsibility for:

  • Optimizing care across teams of physicians caring for each patient, not just the care provided using online collaboration tools
  • Reducing the overall cost of care for that patient by applying the lowest possible cost treatments without compromising efficacy or quality of life during treatment using online “automated advisors” and
  • Involving their patients in the Internet Healthcare process by utilizing online resources to securely exchange information, communicate and provide select basic healthcare services online

Physicians who choose to take the lead by becoming Internet Healthcare Physicians must strive for new and better ways to incorporate internet technologies to help physicians shoulder these responsibilities. For example, we must develop better tools to support collaborative patient care involving all of the patient’s doctors and the patient himself or herself.

Also, we must provide technology that informs the physician of the most cost effective treatment for a particular malady given the constraints posed by efficacy of the various options, assessment of overall cost of treatment (ie., not just “price per pill” analysis) of each treatment option, risks and tolerances of each particular patient and the eligibility for insurance coverage by the patient’s treatment and drug insurance plans. Evolution of this technology will be stepwise, but this is the level at which this information will have the greatest impact on global healthcare efficiency and cost. Even the simple step of providing physicians information about price per pill would be a major step forwards over what exists today. Adding eligibility would be next and so on.

Internet Healthcare Physicians must take the lead in devising new ways to achieve maximum treatment efficacy at lowest possible cost while maximizing patient quality of life. This is a complex equation that really can not be solved by any other stakeholder in the healthcare industry.

One explanation of the current state of healthcare is that physicians failed to take responsibility for setting healthcare “standards” and for self-regulating the utilization of resources in the 1960’s and beyond. Upon abdicating these responsibilities, the theory states, physicians invited outside agencies (ie, HMO’s and federal and state governments) to impose regulations and processes to achieve cost control. While there may be some validity to this explanation for ever increasing insurance company and government control, it is also true that physicians have never had all of the information and information processing tools required to make these decisions, nor have they been put into a position to benefit from having done so.

Internet Healthcare provides both and thereby provides a “second chance” for physicians to take responsibility for global healthcare issues that were previously considered outside the scope of their medical practice. Internet Healthcare provides the opportunity for physicians to regain control of their medical practice and their profession today. It is a “revolution from within”.