The Promise of Information and Communication Technology in Healthcare: Extracting Value From the Chaos

Am J Med Sci. 2016 Jan;351(1):59-68. doi: 10.1016/j.amjms.2015.10.015.


Healthcare is an information business with expanding use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Current ICT tools are immature, but a brighter future looms. We examine 7 areas of ICT in healthcare: electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchange (HIE), patient portals, telemedicine, social media, mobile devices and wearable sensors and monitors, and privacy and security. In each of these areas, we examine the current status and future promise, highlighting how each might reach its promise. Steps to better EHRs include a universal programming interface, universal patient identifiers, improved documentation and improved data analysis. HIEs require federal subsidies for sustainability and support from EHR vendors, targeting seamless sharing of EHR data. Patient portals must bring patients into the EHR with better design and training, greater provider engagement and leveraging HIEs. Telemedicine needs sustainable payment models, clear rules of engagement, quality measures and monitoring. Social media needs consensus on rules of engagement for providers, better data mining tools and approaches to counter disinformation. Mobile and wearable devices benefit from a universal programming interface, improved infrastructure, more rigorous research and integration with EHRs and HIEs. Laws for privacy and security need updating to match current technologies, and data stewards should share information on breaches and standardize best practices. ICT tools are evolving quickly in healthcare and require a rational and well-funded national agenda for development, use and assessment.

Keywords: Electronic medical records; Health information technologies; Information management; Telemedicine.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone
  • Confidentiality
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Health Information Exchange
  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics / methods*
  • Remote Sensing Technology
  • Social Media
  • Telemedicine