Embedding technologies into health practices, Part 2: Decision support on demand—e-health’s killer-app?

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 46 , No. 6 , July August 2004 , Pages 278 Clinical Articles

With the recent and rapid explosion of biomedical research and the resultant expansion of knowledge, physicians are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the literature and the latest evidence-based recommendations for the management of their patients. Rather than committing all the necessary knowledge to memory, this and future generations of physicians need to become much more adept at finding the latest information to help in their decision-making processes. These “information-astute physicians”[1] will use information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as computers, personal digital assistants, and the Internet to obtain the information they need (decision support) when they need it (on demand) in order to exercise their best clinical judgment in the management of patients. This decision support function is what makes e-health attractive to many health professionals.[2]

Effective ICT-enabled decision support strategies manifest themselves in various clinical settings. In Part 1 of this theme issue, we explored the use of personal digital assistants or PDAs, electronic medical records, and clinical decision support systems as aids to physicians in their practice. In Part 2, we examine how the World Wide Web can help physicians acquire evidence-based knowledge by accessing MEDLINE and other sources of stored information. We also look at the world of telehealth—the use of ICTs to educate physicians and to facilitate consultations between clinicians and allow them to obtain just-in-time advice from their colleagues. Finally, we look at the legal implications and the establishment of standards that need to be considered as we embark on the e-health journey.

We hope that you enjoy these articles, and we look forward to your comments on our contributions to the evolving field of technology-enabled health care delivery.

—Kendall Ho, MD
Associate Dean and Director,
Division of Continuing Medical Education,
UBC Faculty of Medicine


1. McGowan JJ, Berner ES. Proposed curricular objectives to teach physicians competence in using the World Wide Web. Acad Med 2004;79:236-240. PubMed Abstract Full Text
2. Ho K. Decision support: One important facet of technology-enabled learning [editorial]. Can J CME 2003;15:1-2.

Kendall Ho is the associate dean and director of the Division of Continuing Medical Education, and is an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery, UBC Faculty of Medicine. He is an emergency physician practising at the Vancouver General Hospital.

Kendall Ho, MD, FRCPC. Embedding technologies into health practices, Part 2: Decision support on demand—e-health’s killer-app?. BCMJ, Vol. 46, No. 6, July, August, 2004, Page(s) 278 - Clinical Articles.

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