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Medical IT systems “needed for GP best practice”

18 July 2008

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Doctors who fail to drag themselves into the 21st century by refusing to use medical IT systems could fall short of professional standards, a study claims.

Dr David Mechanic, of Rutgers University in the US, said with the increasing demands of patient care and a dramatic increase in medical knowledge, doctors are finding it more and more difficult to provide care that is “fair, economical and aligned with the best practices”.

But he said in his report, published in health policy journal the Milbank Quarterly, that it is important to view health information technology as “a tool and not as a substitute for physicians’ vigilance and judgment”, adding that technology can never replace thoughtfulness and caring in a medical professional.

Tools such as evidence-based treatment guidelines on doctors’ PCs, email communication with patients and specialised websites can be used to help health professionals deliver best practice.

Dr Michael Harrison, of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, said: “One thing that we’re seeing is that in order for health IT to be used effectively, the software has to be modifiable to fit physician needs and work flow.”

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Milbank Quarterly