Background Research on patient care has identified substantial variations in the quality and safety of healthcare and the considerable risks of iatrogenic harm as significant issues. These failings contribute to the high rates of potentially avoidable morbidity and mortality and to the rising levels of healthcare expenditure seen in many health systems. There have been substantial developments in information technology in recent decades and there is now real potential to apply these technological developments to improve the provision of healthcare universally. Of particular international interest is the use of eHealth applications. There is, however, a large gap between the theoretical and empirically demonstrated benefits of eHealth applications. While these applications typically have the technical capability to help professionals in the delivery of healthcare, inadequate attention to the socio-technical dimensions of their use can result in new avoidable risks to patients.
Results and discussion Given the current lack of evidence on quality and safety improvements and on the cost–benefits associated with the introduction of eHealth applications, there should be a focus on implementing more mature technologies; it is also important that eHealth applications should be evaluated against a comprehensive and rigorous set of measures, ideally at all stages of their application life cycle.
- health policy
- information technology
- patient safety
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Funding The project was funded by WHO Patient Safety. The Department of Primary Care & Public Health at Imperial College London receives funding from the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre scheme and the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care scheme.
Competing interests JC, AS and AM have received funding for a systematic review on the use of IT to improve patient safety from the NHS Connecting for Health Evaluation Programme (NHS CFHEP 001). AM's department has received funding from Dr Foster Intelligence to develop software tools to help improve patient safety. The other authors report no conflict of interest.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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