Healthcare has come a very long way from the invention of the stethoscope to monitor the heartbeat. Today you can see cutting-edge technology and healthcare informatics at work at almost every healthcare facility ranging from small treatment centers to the largest of multispecialty hospitals. These can range from cardiac monitors transmitting data to remote locations to sophisticated robotic arms programmed to conduct complex surgeries with matchless finesse. Today, wherever a patient may be, it is unlikely that his treatment would not involve information technology in some way or the other.
A large portion of the impact that information technology is having on healthcare is extremely low-profile and perhaps not very obvious to the patient. However, that does not make them any less important. A distinct stream has emerged by the name of health informatics, which combines features of information technology and communications to deliver healthcare that not only leads to better patient outcomes but also a whole host of other benefits. An overview:
Substantial Cost Savings
Among the principal reasons why healthcare ends up being extremely expensive is because much of the process tends to be very wasteful. Experts are of the opinion that approximately half of all medical expenses are wasted due to procedures being repeated, care delivery being delayed, lack of speedy information-sharing systems, errors, etc. With the patient and all the caregivers being connected on the same information network, it is possible to curb much of the waste associated with traditional healthcare delivery systems.
The results of a modern electronic HIT healthcare information system are evident and tangible. Not only can diagnostic results be interpreted simultaneously by all the relevant caregivers but the care delivery time can be substantially improved upon resulting in lesser medical complications arising out of delays. Superior health informatics also reduces the chance of errors, duplication of procedures and tests due to lack of knowledge-sharing, and reduces substantially the possibility of malpractice claims. Essentially, health informatics drives efficiency and transparency.
Medical science evolves continuously as a result of healthcare providers learning from the way patients respond to treatments. It is only by the empirical study of patient treatment procedures that doctors are able to arrive at certain standard procedures for improved patient outcomes. In the absence of knowledge sharing, this pool of knowledge would have to be developed by each caregiver independently. Health informatics makes information sharing about patients, medicines, diseases, and therapies easier. This paves the way for the improvement of the practice of medicine, making life far easier for doctors, patients, healthcare administrators, and all others involved in the delivery of healthcare services.
Electronic health information systems empower patients with sufficient knowledge so that they are in a position to play a more participative role in their own healthcare delivery. With the help of more knowledge about their medical condition, they can also track their treatment better and interact with the caregivers, thus enabling far superior outcomes and speed of recovery than before. Patients also benefit psychologically with the knowledge that they know exactly how their treatment is progressing and that they are more in control over the healthcare delivery.
With healthcare getting increasingly specialized, it is not uncommon for patients to be receiving care from multiple caregivers simultaneously. When specialists across different domains need to work together, it is only by the deployment of a robust and reliable health information system that the necessary coordination can be established. In the absence of such information systems, there will invariably be confusion and delays or even errors with very severe impacts on the patient.
Improved Patient Outcomes
Perhaps the most significant benefit of healthcare information systems is improved patient outcomes. When medical records are available in the electronic form, it is possible for the caregivers to coordinate better and reduce the possibilities of error. The quality of treatment automatically goes up also with the automation of many of the tasks that otherwise keep engaged the doctors and the nursing staff as they are able to better focus on the patient.
Author bio: Patricia Gomez is a HIT healthcare consultant who has implemented a large number of information technology solutions for large hospitals.