(extract from the Working Group Proposal, adopted by the EFMI board, Aug. 2002)
Information and communications technologies (ICTs) are being used increasingly in health care. It is evident that the use of modern ICT offers tremendous opportunities to reduce clinical errors, to support health care professionals, and to increase the efficiency of care. However, there are also hazards associated with such technologies in health care: modern systems are costly, their failures may cause negative effects on patients and staff, and possibly, when inappropriately designed, they may result in spending more time with the computer than with the patient. This all could have a negative impact on the quality of patient care. Therefore, rigorous, generalisable evaluations of ICT applications in health care are absolutely necessary and of great importance for decision makers and users of future information systems.
Evaluation of health ICT applications is rather difficult for various reasons: The complexity of the evaluation object, comprising technical and human aspects, the complexity of the changing clinical environment, and the low numbers of stakeholders and users willing to perform evaluation studies . Thus, despite a large number of published evaluation studies in medical informatics, many studies are of low quality and do not lead to clear answers to the important questions. These problems have largely been discussed in the medical informatics research community in the last years. Several authors state that evaluators of ICT in health care can learn from the systematic study designs, which are standard for all major clinical trials in health care. Others are of the opinion that there are inherent problems in ICT application evaluation which do not allow the simple transfer of study designs and recommendations from clinical (quantitative) trials to information system evaluation studies, and that a multi-method approach would be more appropriate. Overall, it is still unclear how to solve the urgent problems of which knowledge and skills an evaluation researcher needs to perform high-quality studies, and which methods and tools are most useful for which kind of research questions.
The strategic mission of the working group is:
We are convinced that the evaluation of health information systems demands a combined, multi-disciplinary (or even trans-disciplinary) as well as multi-method approach. Therefore, the aims of the working group are:
The following activities are planned for the next 3 years:
The EFMI Working Group "Assessment of Health Information Systems" strives for tight connections to those working groups of AMIA and IMIA also working on evaluation topics.
A close connection to IMIA WG 15 is of special significance, as this working groups works on similar topics as this proposed working group. Jytte Brender as co-chair of IMIA WG15 has kindly accepted to also co-chair this EFMI WG. The idea is to harmonize initiatives and activities between both working groups in order to avoid duplicate work, but to accept that complementary approaches may also be fruitful to further the maturation of the field. Several possibilities for combined efforts have already been discussed with both chairs of IMIA WG 15, such as: