Conclusion

Whether one considers communication about health policy, looks at how medicine is covered in the media, thinks about the potential for communication technology to facilitate education and diagnosis, or assesses communication between physicians and patients, there is little question that high-quality communication is a prerequisite for high-quality health care. This year's series of presentations positions the Annenberg Health Communication Forum as an essential area for exploring communication in the health context. From general practice in England to the need for general practitioners in the United States, the forum provoked questions, provided answers, and generated productive dialogue. From interactive video that allows patients to access information on a desktop computer to telemedicine technology that allows physicians to see patients in other towns, states, and countries, the forum provided examples of what communication technology can do, as well as a sense of the barriers to its delivery and access.

The Annenberg Health Communication Forum will continue to examine the interplay between policy, interpersonal communication, and communication technology. In December 1994, physician-sociologist Howard Waitzkin will visit Northwestern University Medical School for a forum entitled "Communicating about Social Problems in Medical Encounters." Dr. Waitzkin's presentation will address how physicians' focus on physical symptoms often fails to address patients' underlying concerns and reinforces the societal problems that cause or aggravate these maladies. In May 1995, the Forum will revisit the topic of telemedicine, this time convening a roundtable on the implications of emerging regulatory policies for communication technology in medicine. The participants will consider a very timely issue: now that the technology exists, what are the barriers to using it? The roundtable will be held at The Annenberg Washington Program in Washington, D.C., and, by virtue of a real-time video link, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. These events will be summarized in next year's report on the Annenberg Health Communication Forum.