Information technology is worthy of consideration in its own right as a prime mover of change, and not simply as a means to an end. White’s Medieval Technology and Social Change is a wonderful and short classic.
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The author, a distinguished historian, points out that most history is written by priests and politicians, “scribblers” in his words, who are concerned with policy and strategy documents or ideology. However, massive changes are brought about in society by the introduction of technologies that have unforeseen social impacts. For example, the stirrup led to the creation of feudalism; the heavy plough to the manorial system in northern Europe. We spend a great deal of time agonising about the future of the medical profession and the nature of clinical practice and education, but information technology is a tool that will be as dramatic in its impact as the stirrup or the heavy plough.
Often people try to dissociate themselves from information technology and say they are in knowledge management or the information business, but information technology is itself of vital importance and we should be proud to be making the tools. This collection of essays, from two distinguished and practical clinical academics, gives an excellent introduction to the revolutionary potential of healthcare information technology, the social impact of which will be enormous. We are fortunate today that those who create and develop such tools are, unlike their glorious predecessors, able to write—and to write beautifully. I have great pleasure in recommending this book to readers from all backgrounds as an accessible, comprehensive survey of this revolutionary technology.
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