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NCCN Conference Offers a Peek Into Internet Medicine's Future

HOLLYWOOD, Fla., March 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --- Soon the Internet may hold your medical record where you and your doctor can access it at all hours. Even if you are undergoing a complicated chemotherapy regimen, your computer may prompt you to follow doctor's orders and, via a daily questionnaire, alert your doctor to any new problems, predicted roundtable participants at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network's 13th Annual Conference, March 5-9.

Former AOL chief Steve Case said he launched just more than a year ago in part because his late brother, who died of a brain tumor, "didn't really know where to turn" for cancer information. Internet and health-care experts "hadn't yet really nailed it" in terms of putting "the consumer at the center" when presenting treatment and prevention data. and Microsoft's HealthVault are industry newcomers to creating personal medical records on the web. WebMD has offered privacy-protected records for almost a decade, with millions of consumers using them. An easy-to-access Internet health record would help cancer patients because they typically consult multiple specialists at more than one institution, sometimes in more than one town.

Would consumers fear cyber-storing of sensitive files? Case said no, recalling predictions that "consumers would never enter credit-card information online" -- conventional wisdom now proved wrong.

More than 100 million consumers annually research health information on the web, and these increasingly "cynical and skeptical" consumers are hungry for guidance and sources they can trust, Nan Forte of WebMD said.

Case called for health sites to "not just preach to consumers what they're supposed to do but give them tools to take action."

Doctors on the panel such as Microsoft's James Mault, M.D., complained about the plethora of health sites on the web, citing the patient "coming in with stacks of printouts three inches thick. Even doctors are overwhelmed by information they can't use." But he acknowledged that cancer patients want to find, for example, articles in medical journals published in the last six months -- and expect to discuss them with their doctors.

The Internet's empowerment of consumers outweighs its potential to complicate doctor visits, Al B. Benson III, M.D., of Northwestern University's Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center said during the roundtable discussion titled "e-Health -- Educating, Enlightening or Exasperating the American Patient with Cancer?" Benson, also chairman of the NCCN board, added, "Twenty years ago people didn't talk about cancer, let alone watch a colonoscopy on TV."

Veteran ABC journalist Sam Donaldson, moderator, pressed an official from Health and Human Services about the low visibility of federal government websites that contain high-quality information. "How do you get people to your site?" he asked Rear Admiral Penelope Slade Royall, HHS deputy assistant secretary responsible for Royall explained that government sites devoted to cancer don't accept advertising and thus lack marketing budgets. Royall also urged commercial Internet health sites to use plain English to help guide the 88 percent of Americans lacking health literacy skills.

About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a not-for-profit alliance of 21 of the world's leading cancer centers, is dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of care provided to patients with cancer. Through the leadership and expertise of clinical professionals at NCCN Member Institutions, NCCN develops resources that present valuable information to the numerous stakeholders in the health care delivery system. As the arbiter of high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision-makers. The primary goal of all NCCN initiatives is to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of oncology practice so patients can live better lives.

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The NCCN Member Institutions are: City of Hope, Los Angeles, CA; Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center | Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, MA; Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, Durham, NC; Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA; Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT; Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Seattle, WA; Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital & Richard J. Solove Research Institute at The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD; Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY; H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Tampa, FL; Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY; Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO; St. Jude Children's Research Hospital/University of Tennessee Cancer Institute, Memphis, TN; Stanford Comprehensive Cancer Center, Stanford, CA; University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center, Birmingham, AL; UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, San Francisco, CA; University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, MI; UNMC Eppley Cancer Center at The Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE; The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX; and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE National Comprehensive Cancer Network
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