Health Data in the Information Society

Proceedings of MIE2002


Engelbrecht, R.,
Surján, G.,
McNair, P.

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MIE 2002 is the XVIIth international conference of the European Federation of Medical Informatics. Today, mankind builds up the information society, enabled by the underlying rapid development in computer technology. The significance of the spread of the internet is comparable to the significance of Gutenberg's invention. On one hand it both helps dissemination of data and knowledge and sharing of ideas. On the other hand the achievements may divide the society, as did non-literacy deprive many people from knowledge throughout centuries. Today millions of people are isolated from an incredibly large amount of information because of "computer non-literacy", and a new elite mastering the information society has appeared. However, the ease of production and dissemination of information may foster thoughtless communication, and has lead to a flood of information and disinformation. We have to learn how to behave in this new situation, in which the dissemination of information - at an international level - is totally uncontrolled.
In the area of medical or health informatics these questions are more serious. Lack of information, false or inadequate information, as well as improper interpretation of accurate information may seriously harm patients. And the process may go out of control of the physician, i.e. patients can "treat" themselves just by visiting some health sites on the net. Everybody may throw a message in a bottle in information flood, and everybody may pick up messages at any time. Can we do anything to ensure that all messages are valid? Can we guarantee that our messages reach the intended audience? Can we secure that content has not changed on its way? Do we know that people getting our messages will interpret them correctly? Are we able to understand the intention of a sender, when we get a message totally out of context? These questions build up the framework of MIE2002.

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