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Policy Issues

The Role of Information Technology in Medical Research

By Daniel Castro
October 12, 2009

Using information technology (IT) to modernize our health care system will lead to improvements in medical research. Health informatics will allow medical researchers to determine the effectiveness of a particular treatment for a given population or to discover the harmful side-effects of a drug. While some of this research will occur in the private sector, public investment in this area will play a major role. This report finds that both the United States and the United Kingdom commit roughly the same percentage of total public medical research funds to health informatics. However, the United Kingdom is uniquely positioned to benefit from advancements in health informatics research because it is significantly ahead of the United States in its transition to electronic health records among primary care providers. More importantly, the National Health Service (NHS) has made an important strategic decision to emphasize medical research as one of its core missions. Thus, as the NHS continues to develop its IT infrastructure, it will be able to make technical upgrades and policy changes to improve information sharing and its information base for research. The United States currently lacks the capacity being developed by the NHS to turn its existing or future electronic health records into a usable database for medical research. To benefit from the full potential of health informatics, the United States should develop the capability to share medical data for authorized research in a timely and efficient manner.

Read the report

Related Links

Explaining International IT Application Leadership: Health IT
September 22, 2009
ITIF study exploring the lessons nations can learn from the global leaders in health IT adoption. The report helps answer the questions, “Which countries are leading in health IT adoption, what explains their success, and what lessons can other nations learn from these leaders?”

Digital Quality of Life: Health Care
October 1, 2008
Chapter from ITIF report documenting how IT is at the core of dramatic improvements in quality of life for individuals all around the world.

Improving Health Care: Why a Dose of IT May Be Just What the Doctor Ordered
October 25, 2007
ITIF report explaining the benefits of establishing independent health record data banks as a sustainable and market-based approach to implementing electronic health records in the United States.