Wanted: provider feedback on health IT

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IT companies need to bring in doctors and other healthcare stakeholders in order to ensure that new technologies and applications are actually useful--a process which is currently fragmented at best, according to a paper published in a recent special issue of the Journal of the Association for Information Systems.

"IT enables improvements in healthcare processes, can engage patients and stakeholders and provide infrastructure to share clinical and financial information more efficiently. All of these things help to make the healthcare system run more smoothly and cost-effectively," wrote Fay Cobb Payton, PhD, associate professor of information systems at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, and colleagues.

However, technology alone is not a cure-all that will solve the overarching problems facing the healthcare system, such as difficulties in sharing medical data and ballooning healthcare costs, according to the authors. "For example, IT can streamline processes, such as medical record-keeping, but interorganizational data-sharing among clinical stakeholders is lacking and hence stands to impact clinical assessments and outcomes as well as medical decision-making."

To ensure that the IT developed for the healthcare system actually meets the system's needs, the IT community needs to adopt a more interdisciplinary approach to product development, design, implementation and research, the authors wrote.

“Bringing in interdisciplinary experts would also help ensure that IT products and applications are implemented in a way that maximizes utility for all of the stakeholders involved: patients, researchers, healthcare providers, public health agencies and insurers, among others,” noted the authors. To that end, IT development and implementation teams may want to include doctors, nurses, social workers and other end users--not just IT professionals.

"The IT industry needs to solicit outside expertise continually throughout the product and application development process," Payton and colleagues concluded. "Interdisciplinary approaches are further needed to address critical issues, such as clinical outcomes, health disparities and treatment management. IT expertise alone does not ensure the best possible product. Feedback from end users in the healthcare field is critical."