The future of health information technology and informatics

The future of health information technology and informatics

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The Computer Information Technology department at Lane offers educational opportunities and career possibilities in the ever-growing field of healthcare technology.

Technology is part of the healthcare world, for clinicians, administrators and patients. In recent years there have been many changes in healthcare technology; in fact, the industry has been accused by some of being reluctant to embrace the digital age.

This is not necessarily the case when it comes to computerization of medical technology, such as diagnostic and treatment procedures. Where computerization of information is concerned, health care lags far behind other industries.

All healthcare professionals will definitely use technology. Those who work as health information technology professionals have chosen to become a lifelong learners staying abreast of emerging technologies in all positions they will hold throughout their careers.

Health informatics is the management of automated health information, in particular. In short, health informatics is the technological side of managing health information—the design, development, structure, implementation, integration, and management of the technical aspects of electronic record-keeping or electronic (medical) health records (EHR/EMR).

Health information management pertains to both paper and automated capture, retrieval, storage and use of health information. The journey through a great deal of resistance to giving up paper records to the electronic health record system has not been an easily travelled one.

Implementing and maintaining an electronic record is expensive. However, patient safety, higher quality medical care, point of care documentation, faster results of diagnostic tests and the ability to share information with other care providers who have access to clinical decision support is beginning to outweigh the resistance.

Federal government incentives for EHRs began in 2011 and healthcare providers who hold out, thinking the EHR will go away, will be penalized for not doing so, starting this year.

Colleges and universities now include coverage of EHR in their health informatics, health information management, health records technology, and healthcare administration programs. IT professionals in healthcare settings work closely with healthcare professionals to ensure that standards are met and information is available, private and secure.

Current understanding of what an EHR is, has evolved as technology, system capabilities, and health care information needs have grown. The term EHR describes not only a computerized version of a medical record, but rather an entire system. It documents the services, information gathered to make decisions about health care, and the ability to share that information with other providers.

In most healthcare organizations, the introduction of computers in practices often was associated with payment for services or the billing and patient accounts functions. This is no longer the case.

Next EHR steps include practice management (workflow design), accounting, administrative features, systems analysis design, project management, linking diagnostic testing laboratory systems, hospital information systems, pharmacology databases, evidence based practice databases and national, regional and state programs supporting the implementation of EHR systems in health care provider settings.

The challenges ahead will continue to become evident through a discussion of the status of EHR implementation in practice settings and the hurdles that still must be overcome before coordinated systems are common in the United States and internationally.

Electronic systems involve changes at every level by everyone who works or interacts with the industry. The cost of new or updated systems is another challenge. However, the vision of a fully functioning system, with its potential for improving the quality of care and eventually reducing costs, provides the motivation to keep moving in that direction.

Imagine traveling anywhere in the world with the knowledge that, no matter what injury or sickness you encounter, health care providers will have access to your health care data. The information could be shared via an international network of secure health information or via data that you carry on a tamper-proof microprocessor, inserted into a smart card similar to a credit card, or on a computer chip implanted in your body.

Kathleen Walters is a Computer Information Technology instructor