Guidelines for medical and health information sites on the Internet have been published by the American Medical Association (AMA). Access to medical information through the Internet has the potential to speed the transformation of the patient-physician relationship from that of a physician providing advice and treatment to that of shared decision making between patient and physician.
Barriers to the provision of independent information through the Internet include wide variations in quality of information, commercial interests which influence Web site content, and uncertain preservation of personal privacy. For example, insurers or employers could monitor what diseases Web users research.
To address these issues, the AMA has developed principles to guide development and posting of Internet content, govern acquisition of information and posting of online advertising and sponsorship, ensure site visitor and patient rights to privacy and confidentiality and provide effective and secure means of e-commerce. Although developed for the AMA Web sites, these principles may also be useful to other providers and users of medical information on the Internet.
Available from: Journal of the American Medical Association, 515 N State St. Chicago, IL60610, USA or http://jama.ama-assn.org.