In an age where the need for accountability and quality assured services are paramount, the Internet can provide a wellspring of information which one can draw from in an efficient and effective manner. The challenge of today for us, as human service providers for the future is to understand what we do, fix our problems and capitalise on opportunities to do better tomorrow what we are doing reasonably well today. This means looking at consumer health care and its management. To this end, we need data and information. Quality of care can be information based or information driven and the Internet provides both of these.
We illustrate some benefits from the use of the Internet in Allied Health, with the following set of services identified for a domain of a state regional health authority.
1. Access to a comprehensive data base of community services. This data base, set up within each region, can be used for exchange of information between local and remote centres related to the patient transfer. In this way the transferring centre has access via Internet to a database of the region to which the patient is being sent. A comprehensive discharge plan can be put in place before the patient even leaves the centre, thus alleviating time consuming and costly intervention at the receiving end.
2. Case conferences and research applications. If the workers have access to the Internet facilities such as e-mail, electronic and newsgroups, this can prepare them for a consumer intervention within a much shorter time span. It will also eradicate long waiting lists and have positive results in the long term of financial planning strategies.
3. Applications that serve professionals in training\continuing education. Training programs and other useful information listed under specific headings and stored in World Wide Web servers can ensure that the vast amount of information accessible via Internet is available to the worker through quick and easy terminal access. This facility equips the worker with updated information and training relevant to professional development needs. These needs, usually acquired through seminars and workshops are often neglected because of heavy case loads and staff shortages.
4. Applications that support the delivery of services. These can be used to inform the professional about possible alternate strategies, experience of other professionals etc. For example, by using the Internet the worker can access information from their own and/or allied fields and make decisions on an optimal intervention strategy and derive a logical case planning application in conjunction with others. This application plays an important role as informed decision making is inherent in the competent delivery of services.
5. Information sharing. With the advent of Diagnostic Related Groups and the probable formation of Program Management Teams in a health care setting, the decentralisation of Allied Health departments is inevitable. The Internet can for example, allow workers in remote centres to be linked to support networks for supervision and information updates, either intrastate or interstate.
6. Selection of the appropriate human service provider. It is expected that emerging Internet services would facilitate the efficient discovery of resources so that the most appropriate service provider can be identified e.g. family therapist specialist.
We believe that the Internet offers a promise for further enhancement of human service delivery. As the nature of work and the way we work are in constant flux, they must align themselves with todays modern work practices; the possibilities presented to society by various technologies, especially the Internet, should be exploited to their full potential for the benefit of all.