Hong Kong Medical Association Internet Guidelines

Hong Kong Medical Association Internet Guidelines

In July 1996, the HKMA made a set of guidelines for the reference of those colleagues who wished to set up their personal home (web) pages in the Internet. The aim was to facilitate the medical profession to tap the power of the Internet for the benefit of the patients and the profession without infringing the professional code of ethics.

The set of guidelines was constantly updated to reflect the changes in the Internet world. The latest proposal was submitted to the Medical Council of Hong Kong for consideration and we are expected a favourable result shortly. More information presently hosted in the password-protected area would be moved to the public access area.

The Practice Home Page

A practice home page serves as a signboard or an entry in the telephone directory. It contains essential information about the doctor including his specialty and how to get to him. These include:

the doctor's name;
names of partnership as shown in the business registration;
quotable qualifications;
address of the clinic;
specialty as approved by the Hong Kong Medical Council;
telephone, fax or pager number;
email information;
consultation hours.

The practice home page would also be useful for overseas medical centres that need to refer a patient to Hong Kong for treatment. With the doctors' practice home pages on the Internet, it would be easy for overseas colleagues to obtain such information. To avoid canvassing, the practice home page should not contain information such as the doctors past experience or information about diseases or their treatment.

The Personal Home Page

Many people would like to set up a web page to disseminate information about their personal interest such their hobby or their family. Doctors should, of course, be able to do the same. A doctor can publish his home page with the following information:

the doctor's name;
his profession as a doctor;
photos unrelated to the doctor's profession and practice;
any information other than medical information.

There should not be any Internet linkage (hyperlinkage) between the personal home page and the practice home page.

Public Medical Education Home Page

In addition, a doctor can use the Internet for dissemination of medical information for the benefit of the general public in the form of a public medical education home page which is in effect an electronic form of publication. A doctor can include the following information in his public medical education home page:

his name;
his profession as a doctor;
his professional qualifications,
the medical information he intends to disseminate.

Again there should not be any hyperlinks which will direct the reader to the doctor's practice home page. When new medical discoveries or treatment are included, the doctor should ensure that:

the relevant medical innovation has been adequately tested;
a balanced view is given;
the innovation is of proven value; and
the information is honest, factual and accurate.

These precautions are important because contrary to medical journals which are mainly read by medical colleagues, contents of the public medical education home page are not peer-reviewed and the general public have no way to ensure the accuracy of the information.

The Internet is forever changing and our view on the Internet usage may change as well. As the Internet continues to evolve, we may need to update our recommendations periodically in the future.

Dr. Ho Chung Ping
Chairman, IT Committee