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Research needed to support eHealth technology benefits

If the emails we receive are any indication, many physicians will say they don’t need a study to tell them that the benefits of digital technology designed to improve the quality and safety of healthcare have yet to be proven by empirical evidence, but that’s exactly what research published in PLoS Medicine, an online open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science, has found.

Additional study needs to be conducted related to the cost-effectiveness and the risks associated with implementing technologies such as electronic health records systems, image archiving and communication systems, e-prescribing software, computerized provider order entry systems, and computerized decision support systems, the UK investigators contend.

So how will the benefits of digital healthcare-related technology be proven?

“It is vital that future eHealth technologies are evaluated against a comprehensive set of measures, ideally throughout all stages of the technology’s life cycle,” first author Ashly D. Black and colleagues write. “Such evaluation should be characterized by careful attention to sociotechnical factors to maximize the likelihood of successful implementation and adoption.”

The findings were based on systematic reviews published between 1997 and 2010 as well as a review of related theoretical, methodological, and technical material.

By 2012, you may have access to an easy-to-use Internet-based tool that can replace mail and fax transmissions of patient data with secure, efficient electronic health information exchange (HIE), thanks in part to physicians and other healthcare providers now testing HIE using specifications developed by the Direct Project.

If your patients use the Web, they probably spend at least part of that time looking for health information. Such activity, undertaken by 80% of those using the Web, is the third most popular online pursuit, after email and search engine usage, among all those pursuits tracked by the Pew Web Project. So found a national telephone survey conducted by the Pew Web Project and the California HealthCare Foundation.

Do you practice in a rural area, or are you a male physician? If either or both of these descriptions apply you to, you belong to a group(s) more willing to use electronic personal health records (PHRs) compared with your urban, suburban, and female colleagues, according to research published in the February issue of Health Affairs.

Chances are, you agree with your patients on key requirements for information technology (IT) to increase the quality, safety, and cost-efficiency of care, as well as core privacy protections, according to results of a national survey released by the Markle Foundation. Agreement between physicians and patients was strongest on requirements to ensure that new federal health IT incentives will be well spent.

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