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Facilitating physician referrals on the World Wide Web: representation and appropriate utilization of clinical expertise.

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Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


In highly integrated and increasingly complex health care systems, the identification and proper utilization of clinical staff expertise are key factors for efficiently delivering high quality patient care. To achieve these capabilities on an enterprise-wide scale, we have embarked on a multi-phased project to develop World Wide Web (WWW)-based physician referral capabilities for two large teaching hospitals. Currently, users may search for information concerning the education, training, board certifications, and self-designated clinical interests of staff members. Address, phone number, email address, and a photo are also presented. Our experience indicates that institutional changes are required to successfully deploy and maintain online physician referral services and that accurate and equitable representation of clinical expertise and the incorporation of referral guidelines require an incremental introduction of a carefully planned program that addresses the needs of clinicians, administrators, and health care policy-makers.

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