Health Care News and Ideas for Medical Conference Organizers

* ASSOCIATION NOTES Guidelines For Physician/Patient Internet Relationships Released: Medem, a Web portal business operated by 13 medical associations, including the American Medical Association, has set out a list of best practices for physicians who use the Internet to communicate with patients (this relationship, in the time-honored tradition of Internet jargon, is referred to as "P2P"). Anyone looking for a place to begin needs-assessment for a CME course on physician/patient Internet-based communications may want to consider these guidelines.

According to Medem, Internet P2P communications should:

q occur within the context of an existing physician-patient relationship;

q should not be used for emergency purposes or situations; and

q must be confidential and secure.

In addition, the best practices outline these physician responsibilities:

q The physician is responsible for assuring that diagnosing, prescribing, educating, advising, requesting additional health information, clarifying treatment plans, and releasing medical records online is medically and ethically appropriate, and where necessary, for making a strong recommendation for face-to-face evaluation in an appropriate setting.

q The physician should establish and convey clear ground rules with patients governing the use of the Internet for P2P communications, either in the form of a notification on the physician's Web site or preceding online messages.

q The physician should make every effort to use the best and most authoritative clinical information to supplement Internet P2P communications.

q All participants in Internet P2P communications should use the best reasonably available techniques to authenticate their identity.

The AMA is again under fire for a business deal, this time for participating in a joint venture with database marketer Acxiom Corp. The new Web-based venture, called HealthCarePro Connect, makes the AMA's Physician MasterFile available to Acxiom's database wizards, who can turn physician information into customer profiles. HealthCarePro Connect will then sell the lists to clients, such as pharmaceutical companies. Physicians will be able to specify what information they want to receive from those clients, and HealthCarePro Connect promises to weed out pharmaceutical firm advertising. The AMA's Richard Corlin says the arrangement will give physicians more control over what information they receive; medical ethicists argue that the exact opposite will happen: Pharmaceutical firms will have easier access than ever before to physicians. The venture, announced in October, has not yet been implemented.

* MEETING NOTES Healer, Credential Thyself: In December, more than 400 physicians attended the first board certification review course in holistic medicine at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Denver. Created by the American Board of Holistic Medicine and co-sponsored by the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, this course was held to help prepare licensed MDs and doctors of osteopathy to become physician-healers.

According to the ABHM, the practice of holistic medicine is "highly effective in treating the more than 100 million Americans suffering from a variety of chronic conditions - from arthritis and sinusitis to heart disease and menopause. It is primarily for this reason that nearly 50 percent of the American population is regularly using some type of alternative therapy, making 629 million visits per year to alternative practitioners. This number is almost double the number of the combined visits to all primary care physicians."

The co-directors of the board review course are Robert A. Anderson, MD, and Robert S. Ivker, DO, who are also the co-authors of the book, The Self-Care Guide to Holistic Medicine.

The ABHM is an independently constituted medical board, founded in Seattle in 1996 to provide a basic scientific standard for the credentialing of holistic physicians in the U.S. The ABHM may be contacted by fax at (425) 787-8040, or by sending e-mail to