Medical history taking lies at the centre of clinical diagnosis and decision-making. Computer-assisted history-taking systems (CAHTS) are tools that aids clinicians in gathering data from patients to inform a diagnosis or treatment plan. Even though CAHTS have been available for nearly three decades, these remain underused in routine clinical practice. In a paper published in the journal Informatics in Primary Care, Yannis Pappas and colleagues reviewed the previous research on CAHTS.
The review reported that CAHTS can save professionals' time, improve delivery of care to those with special needs and also facilitate the collection of information, especially potentially sensitive information (e.g. sexual history, alcohol consumption). The use of CAHTS, however, also has disadvantages that hinder the process of history taking and may pose risks to patients. CAHTS are also limited in detecting non-verbal communication, may pose irrelevant questions and frustrate the users with technical problems. Pappas and colleagues also reported that barriers such as a preference for pen-and-paper methods and concerns about data loss and security still exist and affect the adoption of CAHTS.
Pappas and colleagues concluded that CAHTS could play a greater role in healthcare, particularly in integrating information from different parts of the health system. However, for CAHTS to be adopted more widely in mainstream health care, important changes should take place in how we conceive, plan and conduct primary and secondary research on their benefits.