The processing capacity of the conscious mind has been estimated at 120 bits per second. To put that in context, in order to understand one person talking to you, we need to process 60 bits of information per second. Primary care physicians on an average deal with three problems per patient and it is estimated that physicians have about eight unanswered questions for every ten ambulatory visits. Furthermore, physicians in practice have unmet information on the order of two questions for every three patients seen and only pursue answers for about 30% of these questions. The US health care system now is characterized by more to do, more to know, and more information to manage than at any time in history. For example, in 1970 there were approximately 200,000 research publications per year in 1970. This number has tripled to more than 750,000 in 2010. The sheer volume of new discoveries stresses the capabilities of the system to effectively generate and manage knowledge and apply it to regular care. The need for longitudinal, comprehensive, and coordinated care make the role of the primary care physician exceedingly complicated and puts a great burden on the clinician in terms of coordination, information management, workload, and decision making.
This chaotic mishmash of increasing data inputs with ineffective information retrieval and lack of decision support promises to not only overwhelm the system, but decrease provider productivity, and ultimately hinder decision-making. It is imperative that data inputs be curated and transformed into information that must be efficiently delivered through the right channel at the right time in the workflow. Finally, this information must be transformed into knowledge via evidence based clinical decision support tools that provide predictive and prescriptive models of individual and population wide disease trajectories.