Today digital innovation and health information technology (health IT) have moved to center stage, opening up a world of possibilities for patients and physicians.

Improving patient outcomes

To improve the quality of care and increase efficiency, most physicians have already embraced some form of health IT. They are using telemedicine to remotely diagnose patients. They are leveraging mobile applications to monitor patients and coordinate care with other providers. And they are using online portals to assist with everything from scheduling appointments to writing prescriptions.

"Health IT will continue to benefit patients and increase quality of care, and it starts with the ongoing education of patients and healthcare professionals."

The American Medical Association (AMA) believes health IT can play a critical role in  helping patients better manage a wide range of conditions and preventing  the progression of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease – efforts at the core of AMA’s strategic work on improving health outcomes. Research shows that small reductions in systolic blood pressure can save countless lives, and health IT—which can make screening and tracking patients easier—empowers physicians to deliver better care and enables patients to take a proactive role in managing their health.

Future physicians

For the medical students of the 21st century, technology is a force that is and will be ever-present in their professional careers. Special attention needs to be paid to the medical education community to prepare future physicians for the rigors and opportunities associated with our rapidly evolving health IT landscape. For example, to build a bridge between the classroom and the clinical setting, a recent AMA grant has made it possible for nine of the nation’s foremost medical schools to partner with the company i-Human Patients to experience advanced learning through the use of a virtual patient platform. Another AMA grant initiative is funding work at 11 of the nation’s leading medical schools to better train physicians to practice in the evolving health care environment.

Finally, efforts must be made to ensure physicians can continue to put their patients first, especially by improving the usability of electronic health records (EHRs).  EHRs should allow physicians to utilize technology and meet regulatory requirements while not taking time away from their ability to provide excellent patient care.  Luckily, dedicated organizations are joining forces with health IT experts, EHR developers and the federal government to improve the functionality of EHRs and better leverage the power of this technology for enhancing patient care.

As the digital health evolution moves forward rapidly, health IT is still a work in progress. Health IT will continue to benefit patients and increase quality of care, and it starts with the ongoing education of patients and healthcare professionals.