Tag Archives: information overload

Is WebMD helping or hurting?

Healthcare costs are through the roof and are generally one of the bigger issues facing the country (when the economy isn’t overshadowing everything else). Healthcare costs also are dragging on the economy. So bringing those costs down is a very important goal. I touch on this a little bit last week, and this week is going to look at another small piece of the puzzle–you.

Getting costs under control is going to require everyone, from doctors and pharmaceuticals to the patients themselves. For example, the CDC reports that in 2008 there were 123.8 million ER visits. According to the Director of the federal Office of Management and Budget, almost $700 billion is wasted on unnecessary care. Some of this unnecessary care comes in the form of unneeded ER visits. This article contains links to sources for both claims. It also makes some good counter-arguments in terms of saving costs on ER visits. But I’m not trying to argue about how much we could save on ER visits.

In general, patients can help cut healthcare costs with some education. We should be teaching high school students when they need to go to the doctor and when they don’t, about health insurance, and the differences between name-brand and generic pharmaceuticals. (Also, the importance of healthy eating. I’m pretty sure that was covered in my 9th grade health class, but I didn’t get much out of it. And everything gets overcomplicated when it comes to healthy eating). It would be expected with increased internet access that patients would have better access to health information. I’m sure sites like WebMD and Mayo Clinic Health Information pop to mind.

So why haven’t we seen a decrease in costs (or unnecessary ER visits) as more people have gotten access to the internet and its wealth of health information? It’s a good question, and I don’t have the answer. But I do wonder if sites like WebMD are actually helping or hurting things.

1. Easy Access Info

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