Of faith and eHealth – assumptions about improved health care?

by Hans on 2005/04/11

Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I’m curious as to why there seems to be a sense of complete confidence that using eHealth (e.g., information and communication technologies in health care) will lead to better care, lower costs, and a more “satisfied customer”.

In a short opinion piece titled “Taking a Walk on the Supply Side: 10 Steps to Control Health Care Costs” by the President of the Commonweath Fund site, “Implement Modern Information Technology” is listed as the tenth item. Here’s what she says about it:

All of these savings would be easier to achieve if health care providers used modern information systems. Such systems would lower administrative costs, reduce medical errors, and make it easier to retrieve test results and review medications. Electronic medical records could give physicians timely access to complete medical histories, in many cases eliminating the need to hospitalize patients.An electronic clearinghouse on insurance eligibility and claims would make it easier to establish patients’ insurance status and enroll the uninsured in coverage that meets their needs. A multi-payer database on utilization of health care services also would help to ascertain provider quality and efficiency. It could be used to move toward a more competitive system of pricing, reducing the wide variation in payment for the same care.

Maybe it’s just the researcher in me, but I’m not convinced that using IT will lead to the above mentioned benefits. I do, however, believe that there is the potential for many benefits to be realized. In my experience, the technology acts very much like a magnifying glass of existing strengths and weaknesses. If you haven’t optimized and worked out the bugs in the workplace, then technology won’t solve your problems. Technology isn’t THE solution – it’s just part of the solution.

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