Influence, Information Overload and Information Technology in Health Care

Innovation and Economic Growth

Article Snapshot


James B. Rebitzer, Mari Rege and Christopher Shepard


Advances in Health Economics and Health Services Research, Vol. 19, p. 43-69, 2008


This paper looks at how technology can help doctors use information better.

Policy Relevance

Technology that helps doctors learn faster about new treatments can help improve care, but investors might need guidance from public policy to gain the full benefits.

Main Points

  • Doctors are overloaded with information about new research and treatments and individual patients. This leads to mistakes in treatment and raises costs. Some states spend 30% more than others on heart attack treatments, with no improvement in outcome.

  • We ask how information technology can help, using physician decision support system using artificial intelligence. The federal government is promoting the use of such technology.

  • The system takes information from billing records, pharmacies and labs, and medical research to make suggestions to doctors about individual patients. Using this tool reduced mistakes, costs, and seemed to help doctors learn about new treatments faster.

  • Doctors learn about established treatments from colleagues and by reading research about new treatments. Doctors using technology to alert them to relevant new research will tend to increases knowledge among all doctors.

  • Private insurers might hold back in investing in the new technology, because they hope to benefit from such systems paid for by others.

  • Medical device makers and drug companies would market new IT systems more aggressively, expecting to capture the profits. But these companies might spend too much to have their own products included. This could also distort medical decisions.

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