Ultimately, Health Informatics has an interest in information technology because of its potential to improve patient care. In order for this to happen it must change behaviour. The aim is to provide information to clinicians at a time and in a way that results in action.
A central concern of the group's research therefore is to develop and evaluate ways that data can effect behaviour change. There are several ways in which information technology can achieve this:
- Implementation of new information technology tools - Analysis of routinely available statistics allows development of better models to predict occurrence of illness or to stratify risk of illness and to provide guidance on diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Such models can inform clinicians how best to inform and manage patients and can also facilitate organisation of services to maximise the help which can be given to patients.
- Quality improvement - Information technology can enable continuous, incremental, quality improvement through real-time monitoring and evaluation. This can be used to change physician prescribing, diagnostic test ordering or referral, but the effectiveness depends upon using the right indicators, mode of presentation and the frequency of feedback. Key questions therefore include identifying appropriate indicators, methods of generating real time assessment and empirically testing modes of data presentation.
- Service re-design - Health information has the potential to inform service redesign through modelling patient flows and through health economic modelling.
- Evaluation of health services - Routinely available data and information technology play an increasing role in health service evaluation. Robust trial designs such as cluster and individually randomised controlled trials can be nested within information systems so that routine data collection can be used for evaluation. This has the potential to create learning organisations, where evaluation and data capture are institutionalised.