Information technology plays important and sometimes surprising roles in medicine. According to a review of studies published in the "Annals of Internal Medicine" in 2006, there is good evidence that using information technology in the medical field can improve the efficiency and quality of care. However, many institutions don’t take full advantage of the technology available or don’t document the impact of implementing information technology.
Medical technology provides three primary patient benefits: It helps increase how well medical staff follow care guidelines for specific conditions. It reduces the number of medication errors. It also improves how well medical professionals are able to track the progression of diseases within a community.
Information technology helps to organize patient records and can provide valuable cross-referencing information when it comes to things like drug interactions. Because of the rise in the number of medical images captured and used in treatment for a variety of conditions, information technology is especially important for storing images and locating them when needed. Even reading medical images may require IT assistance because of the increasing complexity of imaging technologies.
Information technology in and of itself is not enough to improve patient care. Hospitals, doctor’s offices and other medical institutions need trained IT professionals to implement and maintain new information technologies.
While information technology can improve patient care, it can also compromise patient information, potentially making personal details available to people outside of the doctor-patient relationship. Institutions implementing information technology to store and communicate information should be aware of these concerns and take steps to address them.