It is common knowledge that information technology and consumerism are synergistic forces that promote ‘information age healthcare system.’ Consumers use information technology to gain access to information, in order to have better control on their healthcare and the resources thereof.
Medical informatics concerns itself with the cognitive, information processing and communication tasks of medical practice, education and research. Till recently, medical informatics was obsessed with developing applications for health professionals, from the point of view of the health professionals, leaving out the perspective of the patients.
A decade of development in information systems that trailed physicians and healthcare managers, had a shift in focus in the last couple of years. Now computers drive the pro-consumer slant and telecommunications systems are making the health sector a happening, consumer-friendly place.
Greenes and Shortliffe once wrote: “The development of information systems mostly support infrastructure of medicine with a greater focus on physicians and other healthcare professionals in education, decision making, communication, and professional activities. This orientation needs to change in favour of the end users in the coming time”. What is happening now is that prophetic shift. Information technology and consumer health informatics are becoming integral to public health and national healthcare policies. Access to electronic health records is an act in empowerment of consumers, to track their various needs on health information.
Computer-based decision aids and softwares are helping out both patients and professionals to prepare for appropriate interventions. This trend is more palpable in developed countries where the urge to cut healthcare costs is on the higher side.
There the volumes of interactive information through Internet and technologies, such as digital television and web television, coincide with the desire of consumers to assume more responsibility to their health, to ward off pressures of costs on health systems. The renewed emphasis on public healthcare and preventive medicine is adding fuel to it.
In the United Kingdom, the introduction of services such as NHS Direct provides advice to patients on both web and phone. Intelligent informatics applications continue to channel floods of health information to consumers and patients for attaining a healthy balance between self-reliance and professional help.
Consumer Health Informatics
Informing Consumers on Improving Health Care
The book ‘Consumer Health Informatics’ explores the multifarious aspects of this fast evolving branch in medical science. Targeted at both medical professionals and students, the book is also a reminder of the broadening scope in consumer health informatics that is already making its impact on the fast changing world of healthcare.
The chapter highlights are Consumer Health Informatics, Empowered Consumers, Tailored Health Communication, Design and Evaluation of Consumer Health Information, Information Delivery Methods, Online Learning for Healthcare Consumers and Qualitative Evaluation Practices in Consumer Health Informatics. The book finely ensembles new developments like electronic patient-centered communication that captures consumer health vocabulary, disability informatics, etc. The case studies look at pertinent topics like computer-based information for cancer, national library of medicinal initiatives and importance of web-based patient preferences and utilities. Immensely useful to IT specialists, physicians, healthcare providers, professors and students of medical informatics, the book also takes a look at issues like patient empowerment, frameworks and models for health behaviour change and patient education, patient to patient communication, patient to provider communication, privacy and confidentiality, ethical issues, evaluation methods and lot more.
The Editors of this exhaustive literature on medical informatics are Lewis D, Eysenbach G, Kukafka R, Stavri PZ and Jimison H.