(Published in Faulkner and Gray's 1998 Guide to Health Care Resources on the Internet)
"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest patients in the maintenance of the human frame, in diet and in the prevention of disease."
The Internet, providing immediate access to a vast world of health information and services, has emerged as a powerful medium to help in bringing about a planetary transformation in the delivery of health care as well as the education of consumers in the principles of healthy living. The past year has seen an explosion of health-related web sites on the Internet as hospitals, HMOs, and health organizations seek to fill the growing public demand for reliable, consumer-oriented health information, research, and services to allow individuals to make intelligent decisions regarding their health and the health of their families.
The vast majority of health web sites are Internet extensions of currently operating health care businesses. However, a new breed of Internet company has been born during this period, created for the sole purpose of using the Internet as a solution for existing problems or deficiencies within health care delivery as well as consumer and professional education. HealthWorld Online, a leading global Internet Health Network focused on consumer health empowerment and Self-Managed Care, falls into the later category.
Educating the Well and Serving the Chronically Ill Population
HealthWorld Online's Internet Health Network was created to promote a Self-Managed Care (approach to maintaining health and wellness through online access to a wide range of consumer-friendly information resources, products and services, online health education, a strong emphasis on self-care, as well as an increased access to resources on natural health care and alternative/complementary medicine. We believe that the Self-Managed Care focus on promoting health and wellness can help reverse the trend of escalating health care costs for chronic illness, saving billions annually in health care expenditures and raising the general level of health in our country.
The prevention and treatment of chronic illness is probably the most promising area in which the Internet can make a powerful contribution the quality and cost of health care as well as the general health of the population. Currently, chronic illness currently affects 45% of the U.S. population (100 million), with treatment of chronic illnesses currently accounting for 85% of the national health care expenditures,1 to the tune of $659 billion annually. By the year 2030 this figure is expected to reach nearly $800 billion.2 Chronic disease patients are over three times as expensive to treat than patients without chronic illness. This, coupled with lost time in the workplace, makes chronic illness the number one health care headache in the U.S.3
There are two keys to controlling the costs of treating chronic illness:
1) Prevention through education and lifestyle modification
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, in his 1988 Report on Nutrition and Health, pointed out that "dietary imbalances" are the leading preventable contributors to premature death in the U.S. and recommended the expansion of nutrition and lifestyle-modification education for all health care professionals."4 This is borne out by the Centers for Disease Control which state that 54% of heart disease, 37% of cancer, 50% of cerebrovascular disease and 49% of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is preventable through lifestyle modification.5