Today, most patients hardly give it a second thought when medical secretaries type their names into a computer keyboard. They know that many physicians have accepted relatively inexpensive microcomputers as tools for keeping financial records and organizing office files.
But what most patients don't know is that, according to many physicians and computer scientists, computer technology has already reached a stage where private physicians, small clinics, and hospital departments can use microcomputers (known as "micros" in the computer world) clinically as well as administratively.
At the recent Fourth World Congress on Medical Informatics (MedInfo) in Amsterdam, for example, there was evident excitement as paper after paper disclosed new clinical uses for micros. "In past years conversation at computer meetings concerned hardware and languages and how to speed up programming," noted Robert Bowles, MD, a British general practitioner who has designed several medical computing programs for office use. "Now everyone's talking