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Suggested Citation:"7 Concluding Thoughts." National Research Council. 2009. Computational Technology for Effective Health Care: Immediate Steps and Strategic Directions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12572.
Page 68

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7 Concluding Thoughts The nation has made a commitment to achieve the nationwide use of electronic medical records by 2014. Many meaningful and useful steps can be taken today toward this goal. However, this goal reflects expectations for improvement in the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care that will require more than just wider implementation of today’s health care information technology. At the start of its work, the committee had set out to identify a vari- ety of long-term opportunities for greater involvement of the computer science research community in addressing health care problems. And indeed, the committee did identify a number of such opportunities, which are described above. But it was also struck by the number of other oppor- tunities for meaningful progress that do not depend on research—that is, areas of improvement in which today’s information technologies are reasonably adequate for initiating and sustaining meaningful progress and yet are not being fully leveraged for health care. In addition, the com- mittee was surprised to see how little attention had been paid—across the board—to support for the cognitive functions that clinicians use to man- age, organize, and coordinate the vast amounts of information needed for effective health care. It is in this domain that the committee believes enormous leaps and bounds are possible, and also where a substantial number of grand research challenges reside. 68

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Despite a strong commitment to delivering quality health care, persistent problems involving medical errors and ineffective treatment continue to plague the industry. Many of these problems are the consequence of poor information and technology (IT) capabilities, and most importantly, the lack cognitive IT support. Clinicians spend a great deal of time sifting through large amounts of raw data, when, ideally, IT systems would place raw data into context with current medical knowledge to provide clinicians with computer models that depict the health status of the patient.

Computational Technology for Effective Health Care advocates re-balancing the portfolio of investments in health care IT to place a greater emphasis on providing cognitive support for health care providers, patients, and family caregivers; observing proven principles for success in designing and implementing IT; and accelerating research related to health care in the computer and social sciences and in health/biomedical informatics.

Health care professionals, patient safety advocates, as well as IT specialists and engineers, will find this book a useful tool in preparation for crossing the health care IT chasm.


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