Information Technology and Health: We Have The Tools, Now Lets Use Them

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Synergies between health and IT are increasingly recognised as capable of changing entire pathways of care. Internet gives consumers and physicians access to electronic medical records (EHR), online prescribing, appointments, referrals, and health encyclopedia. In the UK, the ‘WebFirst’ initiative aims to maximise the use of online interventions delivering care at lower cost (see note), while the emergence of EHRs offer a central database for patient information to be shared between practitioners, giving physicians access to the information needed to deliver the best possible care.

Image

EPR – allowing health professionals quick and easy access to patient information

Still, social, political, and economic barriers remain such as patients questioning the reliability of information available on privately run websites. Even where information is correct, low health literacy can lead to misinterpretation, causing patients to seek face to face care when normally they would have treated symptoms at home.

Despite these concerns, there has been a remarkable increase in the use of health sites such as WebMD and NHS Choices. What remains to be seen is whether their use is a substitution for conventional care, or whether they act as supplements to traditional consultations. More often than not patients are using the two as compliments, not substitutes.In order to encourage uptake, both practitioners and patients need to be confident that medical IT is safe, accurate and maintains data confidentially.

Sources: www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk; www.webmd.com; www.nhs.uk

Image source: www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk

Notes: (1) NHS Direct estimated in 2009 that online consultations in lieu of phone calls would save £6.67 per user

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3 Responses to “Information Technology and Health: We Have The Tools, Now Lets Use Them”

  1. sbfphc Says:

    eHealth and mHealth are becoming more important in malaria control. A recent article in PLoS highlights the different ways mobile phones can help ranging from continuing education to health staff to data reporting to community health education. See: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001176

  2. aclandry Says:

    I am excited to see IT and health merge in the near future in new and revolutionary ways! Sure, there is always resistance to change and mistakes that will happen in the transition, but leaving the health sector out of technological innovation is not a reasonable option.

  3. judypressleyphillips Says:

    We trust our credit card numbers to the internet, why can’t we trust health care?
    I think they should not just speak of physicians and patients…what about the remaining team? We all are valued equally.

    IT and health are vital together, privacy must however be maintained.

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