Advice in cyberspace set to help heart patients

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 1997, 12:00am

Advice given by doctors through cyberspace will fast become the norm in the territory, say founders of the first Chinese-language Web site for heart disease patients.

The Internet site was launched yesterday by the community group, Care For Your Heart, to target the growing number of people afflicted by the number one killer disease.

Patients will be able to seek advice via e-mail and eventually enter a 'chat room' for support from other sufferers. Detailed information will then be sent fortnightly by a team of specialists and doctors replying on the Internet.

Detailing the scheme, Professor Lau Chu-pak, of the University of Hong Kong, said the profession's use of technology for giving and receiving advice - known as telemedicine - was slow in taking off because few Chinese could input characters on their computers.

But advances now made it easier and cheaper to communicate via the Internet and doctors could even send moving pictures, such as ultra-sound scans, over a telephone line to screens in homes.

'In medical practice it's really very hot . . . and particularly with heart disease - which requires specialist training and knowledge. I can see it developing very rapidly in Hong Kong.' Heart disease affects almost one in 10 people with people over 65 years most at risk. Last year 60,000 in-patients - 21 per cent of hospital admissions - were sufferers of some form of the disease. About 90,000 people were treated as out-patients.

Founders of the site warned it was not an alternative to visiting the doctor and no diagnosis would be made.