IT and healthcare: more than a marriage of convenience. Part 1

When IT professionals talk about information technology and healthcare, it’s usually in the context of hospital information systems.

That’s too bad, since such a narrow focus clouds the biggest opportunity emerging in the union of IT and healthcare.

Don’t get me wrong — no one denies the existence of huge possibilities for IT in the world of healthcare. Some estimates indicate that upwards of $10 billion is spent in the U.S. healthcare system simply moving paper around. Certainly there is lots of room to deploy sophisticated systems to streamline the way information is processed in the industry.

And yet to me, mixing the Internet and healthcare presents an even bigger opportunity than the simple processing of information. I believe we are on the dawn of a new era, one that allows us a unique chance to use technology to reinvent the healthcare system.

I’m rather befuddled by the national dialogue focused on the crisis in our healthcare system. Why? Because for all the talk, I’ve never heard a politician, senior healthcare executive, leading medical professional or prominent healthcare official state the obvious. No one has said that given that patients have changed their approach to healthcare because of the Internet, we should include that reality when we reinvent the system.

People are now taking an aggressive interest in their healthcare. They use online research to obtain information on medical issues, and they are interested in discussing these issues with their doctors. They want to better understand alternatives, issues and treatments.

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