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

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.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided $109,832 in funding from May 1998 to April 1999 to support the study.

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