December 19, 2007

After two years of hard working, I’m glad to announce the research Project Internet Catalonia about Health directed by Prof. Castells and titled “Technological Modernisation, Organisational Change and Service Delivery in the Catalan Public Health System” has been published (PIC Salut)

This study analysed the interaction between organizational change, cultural values and technological change in the Catalan health system. The study is subdivided in five distinct parts. The first one is a content analysis of the webs related to health in Catalonia. The second is a study of the uses of Internet in health related issues among the population at large, the patients’ associations, and the health professionals, on the basis of an Internet survey adapted to each one of these groups. The third is a field work study of the experimental programs conducted by the Catalan government in several local areas and hospitals to integrate electronically the patients’ clinical history. The fourth is a study of the organizational implications of the introduction of information systems in the management of hospitals and primary care centres in the Catalan Institute of Health, the major public health provider in Catalonia, on the basis of an Internet survey and in-depth interviewing. The fifth is a case study of the organizational and social effects of the introduction of information and communication technologies in one of the leading hospitals of Catalonia, the Clinic Hospital of Barcelona. The study was conducted between May 2005 and July 2007.

During the next month, January 2008, a synthesis report in English will be published.

As a part of this research project under Prof. Castells’ direction I have been directly involved in the second study (a study of the use of the Internet in health related issues among the Internet users, the patients’ associations, and the health professionals, had been done using Internet surveys adapted to each one of these groups). I have been working on some of the results talking about “Health and the Internet: still Web 1.0”. See below some of the key findings:

  • Professionals are connected to Internet and make an intensive use of the Net, mainly for questions related to the search and consultation of information.
  • The use of the Internet as a communication medium with other professionals of the sector is extended among all the professionals, but the levels of use of the Internet or the electronic mail to communicate or interact with their patients is scarce.
  • The increase of the information flows available in the Internet has not been accompanied by an increase in its interaction.
  • However, we have to emphasize a tendency that indicates that those professionals who develop their professional practice in competitive markets make more intensive use of the Internet and the electronic mail to interact with their patients or users.
  • Most professionals positively value the relevance of the contents available in the Internet and they do not consider that the patient search for information is negative either for the professional – patient relationship or for the patients’ management of their health.
  • However just a small percentage of professionals recommend their patients to consultation health information on the Internet or even talk about the Internet with them. This is probably due to the lack of time during their face to face visits.
  • Nevertheless, the behaviour of the pharmacists shows us a new case where the factors related to the market oriented context are the key. These professionals do not have time constrictions and are more accessible that the rest of the professionals, given the physical distribution of the pharmacies.

The Internet survey carried out by Internet users shows us:

  • Internet users are characterized by: the high proportion of women, a high education level, easy access to the Internet from their own home, and a high frequency of use. They integrate the use of different sources of information in their activities related to the health. However, physicians are the key source.
  • Women have a more active role than men with all the sources, including the Internet
  • The frequency of use of the Internet for questions related to health is far from the levels that would allow us to talk about ciberchondriacs.
  • The people’s interest on patients support groups as an information source remind us of the importance of lay knowledge, since the utility and the confidence of this source is very high.
  • The main consequence of the Internet use for questions related to health is the increase of information available. Just a low percentage of people makes decisions relative to the diagnosis or treatments of their health problem. This data supports the hypothesis of the people’s consciousness when they manage the inherent tension to the use of the Internet, emphasizing the need of the physicians as an expert.

Now is time to focus on my thesis and try to publish some of the findings on academic journals. Any suggestion will be welcomed