Southern Cross Healthcare Supports Web Warning
Southern Cross Healthcare Supports Web Health Warning
Southern Cross Healthcare has come out in support of warnings by Massey University economics researchers against the dangers of “quack” health information websites.
Dr Guy Scott and Terry Auld of Massey University, who co-authored a paper on consumer access to health on information on the internet, have cautioned that some information may be unreliable and even unsafe, a view shared by Southern Cross Healthcare CEO, Dr Ian McPherson.
“There no doubt the internet can provide a vast amount of information, but the difficulty lies in assessing its accuracy and credibility.
A simple search about a common procedure such as a hip operation brings you over a million sites for example, many will have valid information, but many will not and it is difficult for someone without a medical background to evaluate which is which.”
Dr McPherson said Southern Cross had identified the need for accurate health information to be provided online around four years ago. Its on-line health information pages received more than 1,700 hits last month.
Its information resources were further extended this month through activa.co.nz, the health information site for the recently launched activa health management account. That site includes tools such as body mass index and baby “due date” calculators, as well as health lifestyle guidance.
“We actively encourage people to read and follow the healthy lifestyle advice we provide because it is aimed at keeping them well. We also provide information on health concerns and I am sure many consumers use it as a source they can trust. But even then we advise people that web-based information, no matter how accurate, is no substitute for individual advice about health concerns. Many illnesses and conditions have similar symptoms and it is important that people don’t self-diagnose.”
Dr McPherson said Southern Cross encouraged members to use its free and confidential health information line so they could talk through any health concerns and receive guidance specific to them. The service receives 400-500 calls each month. But he stressed that even accurate websites or professionally manned call centres should not be seen as a replacement for medical advice from a GP or specialist.
“They are very effective ways for people to gain more information in conjunction with visiting their GP but they should not be seen as a substitute.”
About Southern Cross
Southern Cross Healthcare is comprised of two organisations that focus on the health sector in New Zealand:
- One organisation, the first created, is the Southern Cross Medical Care Society with over 800,000 members. It is a not for profit Friendly Society that focuses on delivering health insurance services for both individual members and group schemes. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the Society is the new Activa Health Limited business.
- The other organisation is the Southern Cross Health Trust. It consists of the Southern Cross Hospitals - New Zealand’s only private hospital network, and Southern Cross Travel Insurance.