Transportation, research and development, manufacturing, education; information technology influences virtually every industry in the 21st century, but there’s one industry where information technology may have the most significant impact: the healthcare industry.
Information technology refers to the use of various types of systems, such as telecommunications and computers, to store, retrieve, and send information. Healthcare information technology, then, refers to the use of technology systems that are used to manage health-related information.
More specifically, healthcare information technology involves the exchange of health-related data via electronic systems. The use of information technology has been proven to offer numerous benefits, including improved medical care, reduced medical errors, lower health care costs, and more affordable health care overall.
Why Information Technology Is Important in Healthcare
Healthcare information technology involves the use of technology to record, assess, and distribute patient-related data. The goal of information technology in the healthcare industry is to improve the overall health of the population by improving the quality of care that patients receive.
Information technology is important in the healthcare industry, as it:
Assists in the delivery of more accurate, actionable, and more accessible information related to patients’ health, and this information is better customized to meet the needs of individuals.
Supports shared decision making between healthcare professionals and patients.
Establish networks of social support for patients and healthcare professionals alike.
It allows for faster and more informed decisions concerning health-related risks that impact individuals, as well as the public.
Enhanced knowledge and more informed decisions regarding health-related information that affects individual patients and the public at large.
The above are just some of the reasons why information technology is important in the healthcare industry.
How Information Technology Improves the Quality of Healthcare
The use of information technology in the healthcare sector has been proven to significantly improve the quality of care that patients receive. For example, Health Affairs (healthaffairs.org) reports that clinical errors in the health industry are responsible for an estimated 44,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, including processing errors that result in the failure of providing patients with the treatments their doctors recommend. Thanks to technology systems, including electronic health records and computerized orders for physician-recommended treatments, the quality of care that patients receive can be significantly improved. The use of information technology systems allow for easier access to explicit care guidelines, which prevents processing errors and thus, improves the quality of care.
Because of this reduction in processing errors, the Institute of Medicine (as reported by Health Affairs), has supported the implementation of information technology – specifically, computerized order entry for physicians – to minimize the reduction of inpatient processing errors.
Information technology improves more than just patient records; it also improves nursing care. A new health-related discipline – nursing informatics – has become widespread in the healthcare sector. This discipline joins together nursing with information technology management and nursing to provide customized care for individual patients. As indicated by South University, a survey conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, determined that the use of information technology allows nurses to identify medical errors and reduced the time it takes to document patient care, thus allowing nursing professionals to spend more time focusing on the care they provide, and that care is more effective.
Another way in which information technology enhances the quality of healthcare is that it allows for improved communication between clinicians. It improves the collaboration between medical professionals by reducing errors and miscommunication, thereby improving patient care and the outcome of treatment programs.
How Information Technology Policies Regulate Legal and Safe Healthcare
While the use of information technology in the healthcare industry certainly improves patient care, there are privacy concerns. Sensitive information can be compromised as a result of data breaches, for example. To address these concerns, policies have been established to regulate legal and safe healthcare to assure patients that details related to their health will remain confidential.
One such regulation is the HIPPA privacy rule, which became effective in 2003. This rule established the standards for the disclosure of information. In 2013, the HITECH Omnibus Rule amended the HIPPA rule, which increased the control and protection of patient protected health information. This rule expands disclosure requirements and the liabilities that are associated with these requirements to business associates, as it states that these associates must comply with the same disclosure requirements that entities are required to comply with. This is just one example of the policies that have been established to ensure safe and legal use of information technology in the healthcare sector.
What are the Benefits of Healthcare Information Technology?
The use of information technology in healthcare provides numerous benefits. Examples of these benefits include:
More accurate information
Customized care for patients
Improved communication between healthcare providers and patients
Enhanced medication management
Easier access to medical records for patients
These are just some of the ways in which information technology has enhanced healthcare and improved the care that medical professionals provide and patients receive.