Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Promoting partnerships: challenges for the internet age

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 18 September 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:761
  1. Alejandro R Jadad, chief (
  1. Health Information Research Unit, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8N 3Z5

    The internet is transforming health care. It is creating a new conduit not only for communication but also in the access, sharing, and exchange of information among people and machines. Although it is impossible to predict its evolution, recent developments indicate that the internet will have a profound effect on the way that patients and clinicians interact. It will also foster a new level of knowledge among patients, enable them to have input into making decisions about their health care, and allow them to participate in active partnerships with many groups of decision makers such as clinicians, policymakers, and researchers.

    This article describes the 10 key challenges that must be met to allow optimal partnerships to develop between patients and clinicians. This list of challenges, which is by no means comprehensive, is intended to stimulate discussion of the issues that require immediate attention to maximise the potential benefits of the internet for health care. Access to technology and information must be equitably distributed.

    Summary points

    The internet provides opportunities to build strong partnerships between patients and clinicians

    There should be more collaboration between consumer groups and professional organisations

    To be effective, information systems must be easy to access and use and must provide rapid access to appropriate information

    There needs to be better integration of information and the values of the people making decisions about their healthcare needs

    Collaboration between consumers and professional organisations

    In the internet era it is important for patients and clinicians to work together as partners. However, there is little evidence in the peer reviewed literature that we are moving beyond the political correctness of stating these sentiments. A search of Medline, CINAHL, and Healthstar from the year of the first issue to May 1999 and of the Cochrane Library's first issue for 1999 using the terms “consumer or public or patient” and “Internet …

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