Access to medical information via the Internet has the potential to
speed the transformation of the patient-physician relationship from that of
physician authority ministering advice and treatment to that of shared decision
making between patient and physician. However, barriers impeding this transformation
include wide variations in quality of content on the Web, potential for commercial
interests to influence online content, and uncertain preservation of personal
privacy. To address these issues, the American Medical Association (AMA) has
developed principles to guide development and posting of Web site content,
govern acquisition and posting of online advertising and sponsorship, ensure
site visitors' and patients' rights to privacy and confidentiality, and provide
effective and secure means of e-commerce. While these guidelines were developed
for the AMA Web sites and visitors to these sites, they also may be useful
to other providers and users of medical information on the Web. These principles
have been developed with the understanding that they will require frequent
revision to keep pace with evolving technology and practices on the Internet.
The AMA encourages review and feedback from readers, Web site visitors, policymakers,
and all others interested in providing reliable quality information via the
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