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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 23, 2000. All rights

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E-Health: Malpractice Or New Paradigm? Marjorie Chertok

It used to be easy to tell the doctor from the snake

oil salesman — the medical degree hanging on the wall was just

one tip-off — but with the proliferation of health-related

websites,

the line between medicine and commerce is becoming blurred, says

Marjorie

Chertok, an attorney at Pitney Hardin Kipp & Szuch. "You don’t

need a medical degree to provide content," she says, "and

it seems that people are getting closer and closer to practicing

medicine

online."

The perfect example of the cross-over between pharmacy and healthcare

provider, says Chertok, is MotherNature.com, the holistic pharmacy

that cleverly and cautiously marketed the Peruvian equivalent of

Viagra

on television by saying "We don’t know if it works, but Peruvian

music is very happy." "You go from that where it’s tongue

in cheek, to websites where they’re really providing consumers with

advice," says Chertok.

Chertok discusses the ramifications of the Health Insurance

Portability

and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), a law to protect patient

privacy

and regulate the online medical profession, at Technology New Jersey’s

seminar, "E-Commerce and Healthcare: The New Revolution,"

on Thursday, March 2, at 8:30 a.m. at Pitney Hardin Kipp & Szuch in

Florham Park. Also speaking: Michael Dunne, an attorney at

Pitney

Hardin Kipp and Szuch, Rebecca Weber of Meridian Health Systems,

James W. Klein of Atlantic Health Systems, Wayne Misner

of Healthcare CIO, and Louis Feuerstein of Ernst & Young. Cost:

$75. Call 609-419-4444.

Entrepreneurs have been able to cash in on the online healthcare craze

under the premise that health information is not the same as medical

guidance. But consumers/patients have not always been able to sort

medically-sound advice from the cacophony of advertisements, says

Chertok. "They provide you with something a little bit more than

information," she says. "The question then becomes is it an

ethical violation, or good advertising, and I think the line gets

drawn at patient care information."

Even if they don’t practice medicine outright, many of these websites

are collecting and then selling vast amounts of consumer data, and

under HIPAA they can continue to do so. "HIPAA doesn’t protect

consumer sites," says Chertok. "If I go to MotherNature.com

and order all kinds of medications for depression, that information

could be sold."

Although practicing health care online raises some serious ethical

and legal issues, there’s plenty of opportunity for medical

professionals

to improve the state of healthcare in this country using the Internet,

says Chertok. "I think that institutions should think about how

they can use the Internet in a very positive sense in terms of patient

communication and care," she says. "The biggest complaint

is that patients feel that their doctor doesn’t care. The healthcare

profession can use the Internet to make sure people have taken their

medication and give them all the things they feel deprived of."

— Melinda Sherwood


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