By David M. Cutler on September 20, 2013
What health care will look like after the information technology revolution.
The idea that technology will change medicine is as old as the electronic computer itself. Actually, even older. In 1945, Vannevar Bush, the man with the vision for the National Institutes of Health, foresaw a Memex computer program that would allow access to past books and records. A lone physician searching for a diagnosis in far-flung case histories was one of the applications Bush imagined.
Medicine is an information intensive industry. Yet there’s still no medical Memex. Even though the Internet teems with health information, study after study shows that medical care often differs greatly from what the guidelines say—when there are guidelines. Doctors frequently rely on their own experience, rather than the experience of millions of patients who have seen thousands of doctors. Not only is the past lost, the present is missing. How many times has a patient received a drug that causes an allergic reaction, just because that information is not available at the time it is needed?