Identifying a health "consumer"
While I find Curran's piece to be a largely persuasive, albeit rather brief, synopsis of the benefits for relocating peer-reviewed health journals to the imminently faster-moving electronic medium, one aspect of the article troubled me:
"Electronic medical journals and health newsletters also facilitate consumer access to information. This is increasingly important as consumers begin to educate themselves about their health conditions and available options for medical treatment."
As we have discussed previously, this implies large questions as to what one would define a health "consumer" as, particularly with regard to something as supposedly "important" as Curran makes online health access out to be. While it is reasonable to assume that those most interested in and knowledgeable of health journals would be those able to afford internet access and to whom ample health care is provided, the question of internet access still imposes a strict limitation as to who is able to view critical health data. Dissemination of information via the internet may *seem* more democratic, but we must also remember that consumerism stretches across economic barriers; claiming that online health journals make health information more readily accessible to "consumers" in general may further widen the gap between those with and without access to sufficient health care in this country. It is true that print publication currently entails a small audience and that internet publication seems viable in comparison, but when increasing the scope of the audience, we must remember exactly whom we wish that audience to be.