The rain forest canopy is a seamless web through which arboreal creatures
efficiently move to reach the edible fruits without any atttention to the
individual trees. Individual health care computer systems are rich with patient
data, but rather than a canopy linking all the trees in the forest, the data
"fruit" come from a diverse forest of individual computer "trees"—laboratory
systems, word processing systems, pharmacy systems, and the like. These different
sources of patient information are difficult or impossible to reach by individual
physicians, especially from their offices. The World Wide Web and other standardization
technology provide physicians and their institutions the tools needed for
seamless and secure access to their patients' data and to medical information,
when and where they need it. We and others have adopted these tools to combine
independent sources of clinical data. Physicians who assist in the purchase
of clinical information systems should demand products in their practice settings
that are Web enabled, use standard coding systems, and communicate with other
computer systems via broadly accepted protocols.
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