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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Underutilization of information and knowledge in everyday medical practice: Evaluation of a computer-based solution

David Zakim1, Niko Braun2, Peter Fritz1 and Mark Dominik Alscher2*

Author affiliations

1 IDM Foundation Institute of Digital Medicine, Am Kriegsbergturm 44, D-70192 Stuttgart, Germany

2 Department of General Internal Medicine and Nephrology, Stuttgart, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2008, 8:50  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-8-50

Published: 5 November 2008



The medical history is acknowledged as the sine qua non for quality medical care because recognizing problems is pre-requisite for managing them. Medical histories typically are incomplete and inaccurate, however. We show here that computers are a solution to this issue of information gathering about patients. Computers can be programmed to acquire more complete medical histories with greater detail across a range of acute and chronic issues than physician histories.


Histories were acquired by physicians in the usual way and by a computer program interacting directly with patients. Decision-making of what medical issues were queried by computer were made internally by the software, including determination of the chief complaint. The selection of patients was from admissions to the Robert-Bosch-Hospital, Stuttgart, Germany by convenience sampling. Physician-acquired and computer-acquired histories were compared on a patient-by-patient basis for 45 patients.


The computer histories reported 160 problems not recorded in physician histories or slightly more than 3.5 problems per patient. However, physicians but not the computer reported 13 problems. The data show that computer histories reported problems across a range of organ systems, that the problems detected by computer but not physician histories were both acute and chronic and that the computer histories detected a significant number of issues important for preventing further morbidity.


A combination of physician and computer-acquired histories, in non-emergent situations, with the latter available to the physician at the time he or she sees the patient, is a far superior method for collecting historical data than the physician interview alone.