Health care consumers in a study of 20 focus groups believe they need to play a role in determining how health information technology systems are developed to ensure the privacy and security of their medical information. That's the conclusion of a recently released report from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services. "Results of the focus groups suggest that participants were optimistic that health IT would benefit health care quality," according to the report. "They thought that computers may add efficiency to health care and reduce medical errors, such as those associated with illegible handwriting. However, some participants were concerned that health IT might make providers more impersonal, devoting more attention to the computer screen and less to the patient." A large percentage of focus groups participants, however, initially believed consumers should not help in determining how I.T. systems are designed and used, according to report authors. These participants believed I.T. was the domain of experts in medicine and computers, but many changed their minds upon further discussion. Westat Inc., a Rockville, Md.-based research firm, conducted the study under contract with AHRQ. For a copy of the 75-page study, click here. This article can also be found at HealthDataManagement.com.

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