Human beings are, in some senses at least, the most important elements of health informatics, and thus, when something goes wrong - the most dangerous. The most dangerous human element is the fact that information can be both entered incorrectly and then retrieved and thought to be correct. A domino effect thus occurs in which a single human mistake becomes a part of the system. As the human being is assumed to have entered the correct information, checks and failsafe systems do not tend to work with these kinds of problems. Thus a single piece of forgetfulness might suggest that a patient can take a drug when in fact she is allergic to it, with perhaps fatal results (IMIA, 2006).
Arguments suggesting that human beings are not the most dangerous elements of health informatics include the fact that a single human being can only contribute a finite number of mistakes to the system. Even if someone was, in a hypothetical case, deliberately falsifying records within a particular health informatics system, many other people would be inputting as well. While human beings are likely to make mistakes, other human beings are likely to discover those mistakes.
The argument for computers being the most dangerous is based upon two foundations. ...
The danger with this "major component" aspect of health informatics is that if the computer malfunctions, or totally crashes, the whole system may lose all information. Health informatics may not actually exist any longer because of computers.
Second, the fact is that while computers are incredibly powerful at storing information, they are utterly "stupid" at interpreting it. Thus if mistakes are made, either on the small-scale level by human beings, or on the catastrophic scale by computers, the computer itself is unlikely to discover the fact unless human beings have told it to do so. Thus the computer is capable of making enormous mistakes, and incapable of realizing so in an intelligent manner. If a whole group of children is said to have been immunized when it hasn't been, the computer is unlikely to recognize the symptoms of various childhood diseases that may occur among that group.
A computer is a tool, and like any other tool it works as well or as badly as the person who is using it. It is not the computer itself that is making the mistake, but rather then person that has programmed it, who enters information into it and who administers its network.
The fact that computer mistakes tend to be spectacular in nature means that the danger involved with them can be easily identified by properly trained human beings (Coiera, 2005). Blaming a computer for a mistake within a health informatics system is akin to blaming a car for breaking down: it is the person that built or maintained the car that is to be blamed, not the car itself (Eglebardt, 2002).
The reality of the situation, especially from a legal point of view, is that both the computer and the human being have a vital role to play in the safety, or otherwise, of a