Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Dark Side of eHealth

In a comment on last Thursday's post on eHealth for Safety, Dr. Hamza Mousa, a physician and system developer in Egypt, provided a link to his blog post concerning a website that appears to be brokering exchanges in blood and organs, outside of any official process or mechanism for organ donation and transplantation. He raises both the privacy and public safety issues associated with such sites.

We all know that the Internet is used for all kinds of nefarious purposes - kiddy porn, hate mongering and the like. We know that the Internet health care space is filled with quackery and sites that seek to take advantage of people in desparate circumstances.

This will be a constant struggle for those of us who promote the Internet as a tool to enhance the health and well-being of patients. I'm not sure what we can do about such sites. One thing we can be certain of is that for all the good eHealth can do, some people will be motivated to exploit the technology and the people who use it.

1 comment:

Michael Martineau said...

Prior to becoming an eHealth industry analyst I spend many years in various aspects of building the Internet in Canada. I founded two Internet Service Providers, the first one in 1990, the second in 1995.

As I have watched the Internet become part of our everyday lives I have found that it mimics both the good and bad of our society. Just as people use other technology for both "good" and "evil", so too have they used the Internet for some very laudable and some very questionable purposes. And, just as we have had to inact laws and regulations to deal with nefarious use of other technologies, we will have to do the same with eHealth.

One interesting experience for me was the introduction of the Internet into rural elementary schools in NS in the early 1990's. Many of these kids had barely ventured outside their small towns must less outside their province. They quickly discovered the ability to use the Internet to interact with children in other countries and to learn about these other cultures. They also discovered the seedier side of the Internet. What was interesting to watch was how quickly they self-censured the porn and other less desirable content. There was little need to enforce any rules about avoiding this content as they quickly figured out that it had little value and focused instead on activities that broadened their horizons.

So, yes, eHealth can be used for less than desirable purposes. And yes, we need to make sure that we protect ourselves against those who attempt to exploit their technology for their own gain at the expense of others. However, let's be very careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Michael Martineau
eHealth Practice Lead
Branham Group Inc.