Health Information Technology

Information technology and digitalization has revolutionized many industries. The healthcare industry is no different as IT has also been integrated into the performance of many
health functions. Essentially, health information technology (HIT) is the
use of both computer hardware and software information processes to enable
automated storage, sharing and retrieval of all healthcare data. This is to
enable easy communication and swift decision making. HIT enables the computerization or rather the automation of processes within a health facility therefore enabling the easy exchange of information between health practitioners and patients. Here is a brief but detailed rundown
of HIT applications that have revolutionized the health industry.

Electronic Health Records

This application has enabled the computerized maintenance
of all hospital records. This application has gone a long way in the centralization
and efficient gathering and maintenance of patient data. Unlike manual
documentation systems that were cumbersome and disparate, EHR has made
documentation easy and accurate. It has also enabled easy communication and
sharing of information because records are maintained in a structured and
reliable platform. The US has wholly embraced this application as indicated by
reliable statistics; in 2009 only a meager 16% of US hospitals were using this
application. Its indisputable efficiency led to over 80% using it at the end of
2013. These statistics are a true testament of how effective it is to maintain
hospital records electronically.

Mobile Health Applications

This health information technology application is focused on ensuring that health
practitioners and their patients can stay in touch remotely. Wireless
connectivity allows patients to actively participate in their treatment while
also enabling health professionals to supervise treatment regimens remotely. These
mobile devices have made it easy and affordable to manage chronic ailments. It
is mind-blowing that it is now possible to maintain your blood sugar level and
high blood pressure by simply using a simple device then relaying the
information to a health professional. Some mHealth devices that come are
essential in ensuring wireless connectivity between doctors and patients
include personal digital assistants (PDAs), patient monitoring devices and
several mobile apps. mHealth is specifically tailored for busy patients with
chronic ailments who lack the time to constantly visit the hospital. It is also
a great tool for doctors who have many patients and cannot afford to make
appointment with every patient.

Integration of portal technology into the healthcare industry

A patient portal is a secure online website
specially designed to give patients information as long as they have an
internet connection. It is a very convenient way of communicating and interacting
with patients as it is available to all patients for 24 hours. All a patient
needs is the username and password that gives them access. Some of the health
information that a patient can access on a portal includes;
All data concerning a recent visit to the doctor
The discharge summary given by the attending physician
All the details pertaining to the prescribed medication such as how to take it and when to take it.
Enables the patient to view the lab results in detail.

A well-thought out patient portal should also allow patients to also use the portal in the following ways;

Exchange emails with health care teams to enable more personalized and private
communication between patients and health care practitioners.
Request for additional prescription fills. This is convenient as it eliminates the need to
book an appointment which can be a lengthy procedure. Schedule future appointments without the need to make a call or physically make an appointment at a health facility. Update contact information such as home address and telephone number. Enable online
payments Allow patients to easily download and fill forms Access and view educational materials

A health facility can improve it customer service extensively by implementing a reliable and efficient patient portal. A well set up patient portal empowers patients, enables easy communication between patients and health care providers and most importantly it significantly improves patient outcome. Through patient portals a hospital makes all its services accessible
to patients and also enables patients to take part in every aspect of their
treatment. Making treatment a collaborative effort characterized by constant
communication between doctor and patient is effective in ensuring a patient
adheres to a treatment regimen.

Self Service Health Kiosks

This HIT application is very similar to portal technology as it comes in handy in expediting some
health processes such as hospital registration. This enables patients to
personally carry out registration tasks without the help of an attendant or the
need to queue. This does not only reduce labor costs but also makes it fast and
accurate by giving patients an active role in the registration process.
Automated health kiosks can assist patient in the following ways; checking and
confirming identification, signing paperwork and other registration
requirements. Digital innovation has enabled this similar information
technology to be utilized in outpatient and bedside settings on ipad or laptop
or even a Smartphone. Although health care kiosks are of great importance it is
still recommended that some human communication should be maintained to ensure
personal care is not totally alleviated.

Remote Monitoring Tools

These come in handy particularly for patients with
chronic ailments. Such patients need a doctor’s supervision consistently and
require an open line of communication between the patients and their health
care providers. Home monitoring systems also eliminate the need to constantly
visit hospitals for a simple check up consequently reducing expenses. An
example of a remote monitoring tool that has revolutionized patient care is cardiac
cast that has a pace maker which transmits information to a remote centre
directly. This enables health practitioners to get notified immediately there
is something wrong or when the pacesetter malfunctions. It allows a doctor to
essentially monitor a patient’s health remotely. An exhaustive study carried out
to ascertain the readmission rates of cardiac patients ascertained that
patients who had remote monitoring tools rarely deteriorated as issues were recognized
promptly as fixed before the situation got out of control.

Wireless communication

Although wireless devices such as walkie-talkies and
instant messaging devices are not necessarily new, they were only integrated
into the hospital setting recently. They are definitely a viable and more
productive replacement of formerly used devices such as overhead pagers and beepers.
These communication systems have enabled easy communication within the hospital
and between patients and their doctors. Computerized wireless devices enable
easy communication that is not subject to geographical location.

The use of real time locating services

This data monitoring tool has enabled hospitals to focus on delivering
efficient services. These real time locating services are essentially tracking
devices placed on hospital devices to help track gather information from
locations or department that are hard to track. Essential hospital equipment
such as ambulances and first aid kits can be tracked to ensure they are where
they are most needed at a particular time. Additionally, there is increased
control to prevent pilferage and loss of crucial hospital property due to negligence. Keeping
track of hospital equipment and devices is the most efficient way of ensuring
that every single device is put to appropriate and maximum use.

Health information technology has come a long way in the span of only ten years because of the numerous benefits it has. The healthcare industry is one of the most important sectors in an economy as it ensures that the entire population stays healthy and productive. This is why the government has heavily invested in HIT. Some benefits of Information Health Information Technology that have made it a worthwhile investment include;

When efficiently implemented HIT significantly improves health care quality and effectiveness Health information systems enable informed decision making because data collection is precise and reliable. Therefore, medical practitioners can make appropriate
decisions that will ensure a patient receives the highest quality of care and the best treatment options available. Reduces the chances of medical errors by increasing accuracy therefore ensuring that all medical procedures are strictly adhered to.

Through health information technology systems information from patients can be
accurately gathered even from remote locations. Accurate diagnostic information
is indispensable in avoiding medical errors. Reduced errors translate to a few
cases of malpractice claims. A reliable and exhaustive study carried out in Massachusetts
ascertained that malpractice cases dropped from 49 to 2 when health information
technology was implemented. Increases the efficiency of all medical procedures making them fast and accurate.

It is an indisputable fact that using electronic records which is a key element of
HIT enables clinicians to receive lab results fast as compared to more traditional manual methods. Additionally, the use health information technology systems also enables auditing of patient information impressively fast and accurately. Tremendously reduces labor costs incurred in the health industry.

Using HIT is essentially replacing manual systems operated by people to automated computer processes. When manually intensive tasks are computerized, they are not only performed faster and accurately but it also eliminates the needs for some personnel. Such employees can be elevated to high-functioning roles to enable them higher the efficiency of health procedures.
Integration of HIT systems improves administrative efficiency

It is easier to supervise medical personnel and manage all medical records when the
system is computerized. It means less paperwork and easy delegation of duties
while the administrator handles more important tasks.

Health Information Technology enables the prompt detection of disease outbreaks. Through the use of this automated systems it is easy for medical centers countrywide to keep in touch and keep each other informed of any medical emergencies that may indicate the onset of an outbreak. This enables the government and other concerned stakeholders in the health industry to handle such a medical crisis effectively ensuring that no lives that can be saved are lost. Health Information Technology has made it easy to track and manage patients with chronic ailment.

Patients with chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Diabetes and cancer need to be in
constant communication with health professionals to ensure that they are properly
managing their ailments. Health information technology enables easy supervision
of a patient even when they are in a remote location. Such patients can now
communicate with their doctors without necessarily making appointments.

Enables a wider outreach hence provision of quality medical services to many patients simultaneously using limited resources

A medical practitioner who is equipped with sufficient and efficient automation
tools can handle a large population of patients simultaneously. An automated
system seldom gets overwhelmed because of increase in patient volume.
Enable the acquisition of essential data driven insights that are necessary for performance
improvement.

The technology that is used in automation of health processes also enables the
accumulation of a wealth of data. This data can come in handy in optimizing and
improving performance. The data makes it easy to ascertain problem areas and
areas that are flourishing.

Drawbacks of Health Information Technology

Although the use of HIT systems that positively revolutionized the health industry, it is not a perfect system and therefore some drawbacks. Here is a brief but detailed rundown of some disadvantages of health information technology. Significantly compromises the ability to keep medical records private.

The pen paper system makes it quite easy to keep medical records easy as they can easily be
locked up. However computerization is liable to hacking and security breach. Most HIT systems work by sending all health records to a centralized information repository for storage. In this case the information is very susceptible to security breach.

Starting up a HIT system is an costly investment

Most health organizations run on a shoe string budget and have very limited funding.
The high start up cost of transforming a pen and paper system into a computerized
one is an expense that these health facilities cannot afford.

Despite these drawbacks, it is indisputable that the benefits by far outweigh the
setbacks. Health Information technology is a productive concept that has revolutionized
the health industry and it will definitely keep growing and remarkably
improving the healthcare industry.

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