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Is the Future of Healthcare Online?

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An international coalition of medical and technology companies called the Continua Health Alliance is encouraging the migration of healthcare to the Web, as remote care becomes increasingly feasible and desirable with the burgeoning patient population. "We're moving into a 'Web 2.0'-style healthcare model," says Continua's Chuck Parker. "The medical provider doesn't have to be logged in at the same time as the patient to see the data."

The standards needed to ensure the seamless operation of "Health 2.0" technology have  emerged only recently. In February the alliance announced guidelines designed to guarantee the interoperability of new medical devices. Gadgets certified by Continua will use USB or Bluetooth, and data transmitted between devices will use an IEEE standard in the same manner that Wi-Fi networks do.

U.K. National Health Service chief technology officer Paul Jones says the Health 2.0 system may be clever, but to be useful the information must reach the proper people. Consultant Paul Williamson says the healthcare equivalents of social networking sites might emerge to form another element of the Health 2.0 paradigm. Parker says that some people may be unnerved by the thought of combining health records and social networks due to privacy issues, but he points out that mindsets are changing. "There's been a sociological shift from not sharing any information to sharing everything — your location and what you're doing every hour of the day," he observes.

From New Scientist
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