Consumer Health Informatics:

Emerging Issues

T-AIMD-96-134: Published: Jul 26, 1996. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 1996.

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GAO discussed the emergence of consumer health informatics. GAO noted that: (1) the demand for health-related information has increased steadily in the past 5 to 10 years; (2) many consumers have reported problems in gaining access to appropriate health information, especially in self-care situations; (3) several hundred informatics systems have been developed in the past decade, but most systems are still in early stages of development; (4) consumers are able to obtain health-related information through one-way communications, tailor specific information to unique situations, or communicate with health care providers through two-way communications systems; (5) more complex systems that permit user interaction are usually the most expensive; (6) consumers are able to reduce unnecessary medical services and lower health care costs by accessing health informatics systems; (7) these systems also help health care providers to more effectively treat certain patients; (8) the most significant issues that need to be addressed include system access, system development cost, and information quality; (9) there is no nationwide infrastructure to link information from hospitals, clinics, and physicians' offices; (10) states and local communities are supporting projects to disseminate health information to their residents; and (11) many federal agencies are planning greater coordination and evaluation of consumer health informatics.

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