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Healthcare IT is Not an Intervention

Picture of an abacus.In a previous entry I drew an analogy between developments in weaving and the introduction of IT into healthcare. In Jacquard's Web I read:

“The real problem was that the drawloom was not a machine at all. Instead, it was only a device for facilitating the manual weaving of patterns or images in the fabric...”

Facilitating the manual weaving... The status of Healthcare IT is somewhere between an abacus and a calculator. This is why I find it interesting when academics and others claim there is little evidence of its value.

Some of you may remember a controversial study on the introduction of a CPOE system that suggested it had led to a sharp increase in mortality. You can follow the resulting exchange by following the links here. When the dust settled the most satisfactory explanation for the study's results was the system had been used and implemented poorly.

John Glaser's article IT is Not an Intervention summarises the situation nicely. At this stage in its evolution, healthcare IT does not carry out direct, independent patient care. Its success depends on a complex of factors, not least of which is the competence of the people implementing it.

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