In the last two decades, rapid developments in information technology have brought about unprecedented changes in nearly all aspects of human life today. Technological advancements are being realized in the medical industry and incorporation of information technology is at the forefront in helping drive these changes.
Healthcare information technology (HIT) has significantly improved and has the potential to continue improving the quality, efficiency and safety of health care provision. This is despite the fact that the diffusion of information technology into health care has been relatively lower than in other areas such as education, business or even sports.
Healthcare information technology has no inclusive definition per say. This can be attributed to the sheer volume of its potential application and the dynamic nature of the information technology world. Herein is a comprehensive guide on some of the aspects of information technology and health care provision.
CLASSIFICATION OF IT SYSTEMS IN HEALTH CARE
Generally, information technology enables health care providers to collect, save, re-collect and transfer information electronically. There are three broad classifications regarding the use of information technology in healthcare.
1. ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEMS
These are information technology systems that enable the streamlining of billing, accounting and various other administrative functions. These may include cost accounting management, patient registration, general ledgers, personnel and payroll as well as medical resource management.
2. CLINICAL SYSTEMS
Clinical information systems focus on facilitating input into the health care process. The applications may include provider order entries, health records, medical decision support, picture archiving and prescription interaction error alerts.
3. HYBRID SYSTEMS
Hybrid information systems are used to facilitate both administrative and clinical applications. They are the most widely adopted by medical facilities due to the cost efficiency and scalability aspects.
Health care providers often consider multiple services as well as numerous applications offered by each type when deciding on the information technology systems to adopt.
TYPES OF HEALTHCARE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Depending on the nature of the services a medical facility provides, budget constrictions and general access to resources, there are several varied technologies that constitute information technology in the health care industry.
1. ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORDS
When electronic health records first made their way into the health care industry, they were viewed basically as digital filing cabinets for patients and physicians information from various sources. Today, these systems have developed into fully automated patient tracking and order entry networks that function to provide real time access to vital information. They have also made it much easier for patients’ history to be determined.
2. COMPUTERIZED PROVIDER ORDER-ENTRY
CPOEs comprise of medication ordering and fulfillment systems. In more advanced health care facilities, they will often feature procedures, discharges, lab orders, transfers, radiology diagnostics as well as referrals.
3. CLINICAL DECISION SUPPORT SYSTEMS
Clinical decision support systems function to provide physicians with real time diagnosis and treatment recommendations. There is a varied range of these types of systems that offer applications from basic alerts and prescription interaction warnings to comprehensive clinical protocols.
4. PICTURE ARCHIVING AND COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS
This smart technology basically captures diagnostic and radiological images from devices such as X-Ray, computed tomography and MRI scan machines and integrates these images into a medical data repository or record.
5. BAR CODING
The application of bar codes in the health care sector is quite similar to its use in the commercial or industrial sectors. Optical scanners are used to collect information that is encoded on a medical product. This information is used for medication to patient matching as well as medical device matching.
6. ELECTRONIC MATERIAL MANAGEMENT
Electronic material management systems help to simplify the clinical inventory of pharmaceutical and medical supplies. It is similar to the systems used by enterprises to manage their resources.
7. AUTOMATED DISPENSING MACHINES
Automated dispensing machines simply serve to distribute medical doses to patients.
8. RADIO FREQUENCY IDENTIFICATION
Radio frequency identification can be employed to track patients, medical supplies and physicians throughout a health care facility via a wireless communications system. This technology is still in its infancy in the health care sector and very few facilities have opted to adopt it. Experts regard it as the more effective alternative to bar coding.
This is more of an aspect of information technology than a type. Interoperability is the concept of incorporation of data from one information technology system to another in the health care sector. It revolves around the development of an all across the board standard for content and communication networks.
Interoperability helps to further streamline the provision of healthcare services through the adoption of automated systems. It also covers the area of system security and privacy safety measures.
BENEFITS OF HEALTHCARE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
There is definitely no doubt that information technology can make health care more streamlined, effective and cost efficient in short and long terms. Below are several benefits of adoption of information technology in healthcare.
1. REDUCES MEDICAL ERRORS
The development of E-prescription systems has allowed healthcare providers to send patient prescription orders automatically to pharmacies for medication procurement. This not only saves valuable time but also greatly reduces the occurrence of prescriptions errors.
Most prescription errors result from poor handwriting on paper prescriptions by physicians. This practice is well known to be responsible for numerous patients’ complications and even deaths. Therefore the important of information technology in curbing these eventualities cannot be understated.
2. IMPROVES FOLLOW-UP PROCEDURES
Effective electronic health records (EHR) systems will have automated reminder features for both patients and physicians. Some can remind a physician to follow up a patient about a current health condition or provide information in regards to changes in the patient’s health.
Other systems incorporate email services where reminders of appointments, dosage and interaction can be forwarded to patients thus improving the overall quality of healthcare services.
3. ELIMINATE PAPERWORK AND BACKLOG
Incorporation of information technology eliminates the often inconvenient and inefficient practice of patients having to fill out personal and other information during every check in. Electronic health information can easily be retrieved in a matter of seconds thus saving precious time by eliminating patient backlog.
Incorporation of information technology into the healthcare sector looks promising but still has various obstacles to overcome. The main barrier to its adoption is that IT investments are costly and healthcare providers have to prioritize between brick and mortar as well as direct application technology investments often within limited budgets.
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