The impact of the Internet on health communication is so comprehensive that it has spawned a new discipline, which is called consumer health informatics, or e-health. The partial integration of health education, patient education, medical informatics, and health communication (the disciplines that preceded consumer health informatics) into e-health provides abundant opportunities and important challenges.

The opportunities include enhancing the nation's health literacy and creating the potential for health communication to evolve from social and commercial marketing to the use of informatics in provider–patient communication, patient-to-patient communication, patient education, and support for personalized medicine. Some of the challenges include the impact of the Internet on health disparities and discomfort among health care providers with the salience of the health information some people find on the Internet.

The Internet's ...

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