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June 10, 2009

Using Information to Optimize Medical Outcomes

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri.

JAMA. 2009;301(22):2383-2385. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.827

An important health care–related decision of the Obama administration is to reduce waste and harm by modernizing health care information technology systems. This decision would be met with more enthusiasm if the design of the final system were driven by the goal of improving the efficacy and efficiency of medical processes through a strategy of collecting meaningful data. Before spending billions creating and implementing such systems, careful consideration must be given to how this information will be integrated into medical decision making. Some of the current health care information technology systems seem to have been planned using a “ready, fire, aim” approach, with little or no concern for how the data will be used. Ideally, health care information technology systems should collect and use information to improve the probability that patients will receive optimal care. Optimized decision making is the essence of evidence-based medicine. However, collecting, organizing, and storing information is only the first step in this process. The systems must also be designed to facilitate data analysis.

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