A Look at Communications Technology and Its Impact on Health Care

Improving understanding of the impact of digital communications technologies on health and health care

    • November 1, 2000

In 1998, the Benton Foundation researched the impact of new communications technologies on health, identifying innovative uses and challenges.

The Benton Foundation is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that works to maximize the social benefits of communications used in the public interest. Researchers conducted a literature search and interviewed health and communication technology experts.

Key Findings

  • In a May 1999 report, Networking for Better Care: Health Care in the Information Age, the Benton Foundation explored barriers to information-driven improvements in health care, including:

    • Lack of technological tools or skills needed to access information online, especially among disadvantaged groups.
    • Unreliable medical information online, where information from prestigious research institutions exists side by side with self-serving commercial sites.
    • Resistance to new communications technologies from health care providers, including physicians, health plans, and medical schools.
    • Constraints on consumers, such as inadequate performance measurement information and limited access to information resources.
  • The report also discussed the future of information technology and health care, including:

    • Trustworthy information resources, guaranteed through peer review and reliable information gateways.
    • New roles for professionals, created by a shift to a patient-partner model.
    • Help for consumers from federal, state, private and employer intermediaries that provide reliable information allowing consumers to compare health plans.
    • Fewer inequities in technology and skills among different populations, possibly through cost sharing among the public and private sectors.
    • Community-based action, such as integration of databases from various agencies and community institutions.