7
Concluding Thoughts

The nation has made a commitment to achieve the nationwide use of electronic medical records by 2014. Many meaningful and useful steps can be taken today toward this goal. However, this goal reflects expectations for improvement in the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care that will require more than just wider implementation of today’s health care information technology.

At the start of its work, the committee had set out to identify a variety of long-term opportunities for greater involvement of the computer science research community in addressing health care problems. And indeed, the committee did identify a number of such opportunities, which are described above. But it was also struck by the number of other opportunities for meaningful progress that do not depend on research—that is, areas of improvement in which today’s information technologies are reasonably adequate for initiating and sustaining meaningful progress and yet are not being fully leveraged for health care. In addition, the committee was surprised to see how little attention had been paid—across the board—to support for the cognitive functions that clinicians use to manage, organize, and coordinate the vast amounts of information needed for effective health care. It is in this domain that the committee believes enormous leaps and bounds are possible, and also where a substantial number of grand research challenges reside.



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7 Concluding Thoughts The nation has made a commitment to achieve the nationwide use of electronic medical records by 2014. Many meaningful and useful steps can be taken today toward this goal. However, this goal reflects expectations for improvement in the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care that will require more than just wider implementation of today’s health care information technology. At the start of its work, the committee had set out to identify a vari- ety of long-term opportunities for greater involvement of the computer science research community in addressing health care problems. And indeed, the committee did identify a number of such opportunities, which are described above. But it was also struck by the number of other oppor- tunities for meaningful progress that do not depend on research—that is, areas of improvement in which today’s information technologies are reasonably adequate for initiating and sustaining meaningful progress and yet are not being fully leveraged for health care. In addition, the com- mittee was surprised to see how little attention had been paid—across the board—to support for the cognitive functions that clinicians use to man- age, organize, and coordinate the vast amounts of information needed for effective health care. It is in this domain that the committee believes enormous leaps and bounds are possible, and also where a substantial number of grand research challenges reside.