eHealth is now officially mainstream

I guess that it had to happen eventually and now, I think ehealth can officially be considered “mainstream”. With the US government planning to spend $50 BILLION to push adoption of electronic health records by 2015, it was inevitable that the use information and communication technologies would be a major topic of discussion.

Much to my surprise, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), arguably one of the (if not the) premier biomedical journals has been publishing pieces on ehealth issues somewhat regularly. In 2010 alone, there are two publications in under three months! Over the past 10 years, I think I could count on my hands the number of articles published by NEJM on ehealth topics. If NEJM is writing about the topic, then ehealth must be in the mainstream.

Here are the two articles published (and available for free) this year:

Granted, these aren’t typical “research” articles, but it is a sign of a change in the perceptions by the field. In fact, NEJM has a dedicated section on Health Information Technology. This is all great news as the entire field needs all the help we can get. Much work still needs to be done to make sure that mistakes aren’t made.

Look, I’m just thinking back to the early 2000s when I started my graduate studies at the University of Toronto and was working with Alex Jadad. There were only a small number of us working to make the vision of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation a reality. Back then, the rest of the scientific community thought we were a bunch of crazies and didn’t really give us the time of day – some of the scientists even scolded Alex for trying to study “fluff” and diverting precious resources away from *real* research. Some of the feedback that I received on a couple of training grant applications was that the topic(s) I proposed studying were “interesting but not research”. I understand the granting agency’s decision – they have to be accountable for the monies they distribute and at the time, the funding agencies were very strapped for cash and decided to focus on basic and applied bio-medical sciences.

Enough reminiscing about the past. I hope that with NEJM increasing its attention on ehealth issues, more scrutiny will come to the field so that better work can be done. Some good work has been completed to date, but we need to do more. As I like to say – every dollar we spend on computers and technology means we have one fewer dollar to spend on direct patient care like drugs, beds, devices, or nurses/doctors. As ehealth continues to go mainstream, I hope that there is an influx of talent, drive, and passion to help accelerate the transformation of the system.