Serious Technology Assessment for Health Care Information Technology


American Medical Informatics Association


United States health care is engaged in an ambitious project to make its clinical and administrative records “100% electronic.” Substantial benefits are expected in both clinical care delivery and medical research (especially for public health surveillance and outcomes/effectiveness studies). Substantial costs also potentially accrue, beyond the large outlays for an expanded computer and telecommunications infrastructure. Privacy and confidentiality are obviously at risk if such systems cannot be made secure. Limited empirical evidence currently available suggests health information systems security may not be very good, at least in the “average” institutional setting. Privacy-focused critics of electronic record-keeping are sometimes accused of taking Luddite stands, insufficiently attentive to IT's benefits. It may also be fair to worry about a certain Panglossian tendency in “industry” commentary, insufficiently attentive to potential problems. Better federal and state laws structuring health data use will help; the industry must also attend more candidly to the technical uncertainties.

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