New technologies can lead to social upheaval and ethical dilemmas which are unrecognized at the time of their introduction. Medical care technology has advanced rapidly over the course of the past two decades and has frequently been accompanied by unforeseen consequences for individuals, the medical profession and government budgets, with concomitant implications for society and public policy (Magner, 1992; Marti-Ibanez, 1962). Advances in information technology (IT) during the last decade and a half are now impacting the medical profession, and the delivery of medical advances, in ways that will impact public policy debates for the foreseeable future. The World Wide Web (Web) makes information that was once the eminent domain of medical professionals available to average citizens who are increasingly demanding medical treatments from the leading edge of medical technology. For example, CenterWatch (www.centerwatch. com) provides a wealth of information concerning clinical trials and offers a conduit by which patients can become involved in such studies. The availability of such information has also led to patients suffering from life-threatening diseases not part of such clinical trials to request special access to potentially life-saving therapies. As a result, the Web is increasing the complexity of answering public policy questions surrounding what medical technologies to make available to the public, who will be eligible to receive new medical treatments, and at what cost.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Ethical Issue: A situation where the decision maker is required to weigh values and employ judgment in reaching a decision. Frequently, this is a situation which is outside of, or different from, those with which the decision maker has previous experience.
Information Comprehensibility: The ability to comprehend and utilize information once located. Comprehensibility, if the information is syntactically and grammatically correct, is often dependant on the preparation and training of the individual accessing the material.
Locally Unavailable Treatment: Medical treatment which may not be available in a nation or region for economic, regulatory or technical reasons. The treatment may also be limited by law or administrative actions.
Information Accessibility: The opportunity to find, as well as the ease and convenience associated with locating, information. Often, this is related to the physical location of the individual seeking the information and the physical location of the information in a book or journal.
Information Asymmetry: A situation in which one party has more information in a transaction than another party or parties, relative to the transaction.
Reduction in Information Asymmetry (RIA): Reducing the disparity in information between the parties in a transaction, relative to the transaction.
Information Parity: As situation in which both parties in a transaction have equal information related to the transaction.
E-Pharmacy: A term that refers to the existence of an online pharmacy that offers medical care providers the ability to prescribe medications for patients online. These medications can then be delivered to patients without ever requiring them to leave the confines of their homes. In some, cases prescriptions can be filled without a physician ever having physical contact with the patient.