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From The CriticsReviewer: LouAnn Schraffenberger, MBA, RHIA, CCS, CCS-P(Advocate Health Care)
Description: This book presents an overview of topics and 130 case studies illustrating ethical and social issues arising from the increasing use of computer technology in healthcare. The book is one of 12 in a series devoted to health informatics. The series is designed for healthcare professionals who are leading the use of information technology in various aspects of healthcare. Some of the titles in the series address a specific profession (nursing, medicine, administration) while others focus on interdisciplinary issues, such as this one on ethics.
Purpose: According to the editors, the purpose is to provide an outline of some of the major social and ethical issues raised by the use of information technology in healthcare. The intent of the case studies is to serve as an impetus for discussion and they are designed to illustrate how thoughtful individuals identify and approach such problems.
Audience: The audience may include students in an information technology professional program, perhaps in a course that addresses organizational or interdisciplinary issues related to the use of technology. Another potential audience could be either individual practitioners working in healthcare informatics or a group of practitioners working for a healthcare organization who could use the book as part of their strategic planning or organizational development activities. The editors of both the series and this particular book are academic leaders in the field of health informatics. Many members of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) contributed the case studies.
Features: The book is divided into an introduction and six chapters, each corresponding to an ethical issue or domain interest. Each chapter contains an overview of major issues followed by a collection of actual cases and bibliographic resources designed to enable the reader to gain further insight into the issues raised. Although most of the cases are identified especially for this book, a few have become classics and are well known in the health informatics community. Chapter topics include online healthcare, availability of health information online, privacy and confidentiality of health information, and use of technology to store genetic information.
Assessment: This is a case-based approach to introduce practicing informaticians and students to the social and ethical issues of healthcare. The cases are short and easy to read and reflect many real-life situations the practitioner can appreciate. The questions posed for discussion are right on target. The references that are provided for further study are exceptional. Unfortunately, this is a subject that is often shortchanged in the classroom and the pressures of real-life prevent the practitioner from taking time to consider. I am glad that AMIA's working group on social, ethical, and legal issues set the stage for this book's development. Academic and corporate leaders of health informatics need to put this book into the hands of people who live with these issues everyday or who will be leading informatics in the future.