January 19, 2011
Little Evidence To Support Most EHealth Technologies, Such As Electronic Patient Records
Despite the wide endorsement of and support for eHealth technologies, such as electronic patient records and e-prescribing, the scientific basis of its benefits"”which are repeatedly made and often uncritically accepted"”remains to be firmly established.
Furthermore, even for the eHealth technologies that have proven to be successful, there is little evidence to show that such tools would continue to be successful beyond the contexts in which they were originally developed. These are the key findings of a study by Aziz Sheikh (University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland) and colleagues, and published in this week's PLoS Medicine.
The authors found that the evidence base in support of eHealth technologies was weak and inconsistent and, importantly, that there is insubstantial evidence to support the cost-effectiveness of these technologies. They also found some evidence that introducing these new technologies may sometimes generate new risks, such as prescribing practitioners becoming over-reliant on clinical decision support for e-prescribing or overestimate its functionality, resulting in decreased practitioner performance.
The authors conclude, "in the light of the paucity of evidence in relation to improvements in patient outcomes, as well as the lack of evidence on their cost-effectiveness, it is vital that future eHealth technologies are evaluated against a comprehensive set of measures, ideally throughout all stages of the technology's life cycle." They add: "Such evaluation should be characterised by careful attention to socio-technical factors to maximise the likelihood of successful implementation and adoption."
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