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Using the Internet in Healthcare. 2nd Edition
  1. T L Bessell
  1. Monash Institute of Health Services Research, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia; tracey.bessell{at}med.monash.edu.au

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    Stuart Tyrrell. Abingdon, Oxon: Radcliffe Medical Press, 2002. £19.95, 162 pp. ISBN 1 85775 997 4

    The internet is an integral part of our health care system. This book will not replace the IT support staff or the hands-on computing course, but it will inform clinicians and administrators who want to gain confidence about using internet technologies in daily practice.

    Stuart Tyrrell seeks to educate us about the internet. He provides overviews about what the internet is and how internet technologies such as intranets, e-mail, and the world wide web work using clear language and explanations. He demystifies web page design and addresses current issues such as the security and quality of online health information. Mike Ingham also authors a chapter outlining the role of the intranet as an organisational communications medium using an NHS case study.

    The chapter entitled “Searching and Sifting” provides an excellent introduction for beginners searching the world wide web for health and non-health related information. Like most of this book, it is easy to read and will allay the fears of the most ardent technophobes. However, it lacks a discussion of health portals and will not meet the needs of clinicians or students wishing to undertake systematic literature reviews.

    Although this is a valuable addition to the Harnessing Health Information Series, it is limited by its technological viewpoint. There is sparse discussion of the applications of internet technologies to improve healthcare delivery and services. For example, the concepts of e-commerce and SMS messaging in health care are introduced without reference to online pharmacies or the use of text messaging to improve medication compliance. There is little mention of telemedicine, online support groups, e-booking, e-health promotion, e-prescribing, or online clinical trials and research. Thus, it may fail to inspire those clinicians and administrators seeking ways to improve access to or efficiency of healthcare delivery in their own practices.

    Stuart Tyrrell provides a short but limited discussion about the future implications of e-health technologies for the NHS, consumers, and healthcare providers. He mentions the potential e-health issues such as the globalisation of health care but does not elaborate on the potential effects on policies, costs, and outcomes. There is also no mention of guidelines for the exchange of clinical information between clinicians and consumers or the opportunity for shared clinical decision making and outcome monitoring.

    In summary, if this book was a red wine I would describe it as “medium colour; well balanced with integrated fruit and oak; good weight and structure; overall soft and approachable; drink now”. However, those readers seeking a more complex vintage will have to wait for the 3rd edition.

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