Information Technology (IT), which has traversed and influenced almost every area known to the human mind, has made a solid impact on healthcare. The healthcare industry in the US is the world’s largest, with some estimates putting its size at $ three trillion. Information Technology is an extremely useful and enabling tool in an industry of such proportions. Healthcare IT is now being considered a specialized branch of IT.
The role of IT in healthcare
IT works in innumerable ways in the healthcare industry. An understanding of how healthcare IT works should begin with grasping the main purpose of healthcare IT, which is to facilitate streamlining of health information from across the areas related to healthcare. Understanding how healthcare IT works begins with learning how the disparate, yet connected players and stakeholders are connected with each other through IT.
Integration is the most integral part of healthcare IT systems. This, in fact, is the foundation and the very essence of healthcare IT. This is the purpose for which healthcare IT systems are built because absence of connectivity among the various parts of the healthcare system is the fundamental reason for which healthcare IT was developed.
This core function of healthcare IT is summarized in the Electronic Health Records (EHR). The EHR is the document that best symbolizes the role and importance of IT in healthcare. It represents the best and most effective item for understanding how healthcare IT works.
Created for every patient, the EHR is an electronic document that has complete details of every patient’s healthcare history. Once a patient’s EHR is prepared, it is available online and can be accessed, with the right controls, at any healthcare center throughout the US. With features such as this, the EHR is a document that has gone on to save mountain loads of paperwork and lots of confusion and double work across the length and breadth of the country.
Using the EHR as a model for understanding how healthcare IT works
The EHR best represents the way a healthcare IT system works. Every entry made to every record is updated seamlessly. The EHR has the latest update that the patient or the caregiver can access from any location in the US. This document places the most current and the most relevant patient information at the doctor’s fingertips at any point of time. This is an example of how integration is achieved through healthcare IT.
Healthcare technology and systems
While the EHR is one aspect of understanding how healthcare IT works; the supplementary aspect of it is the healthcare technology and systems. This is the set of hardware and software that makes the whole activity happen. It connects the information management systems part of healthcare IT. Healthcare technology and systems run the whole IT systems taking into consideration the internal aspects such as software and hardware and the external ones such as ensuring accuracy, integrity and compliance with regulations.
The flip side of healthcare IT
An understanding of how healthcare IT works should also take the dark side of the way the systems work. While every effort is made to ensure that the healthcare information is accurate and useful, it is critical to build systems that are secure and impregnable. This is the essence of understanding how healthcare IT works. By its very nature, IT systems are prone to cyberattacks.
Any hacker who lays his hands on healthcare IT systems is looking at tapping a goldmine. When IT systems are impugned, they make way for easy access to very private and highly confidential, privileged medical information about patients. When this information is made known clandestinely to medical companies, it will enable them to get complete details of the patient prescription habits.
This can help them focus their efforts on exactly what to sell to each patient. There would be no need for market research, marketing or advertising. This is one of the most coveted pieces of information that companies always clamor to get. No wonder, EHR is more valuable in the black market than even security and credit card information.
Although completely illegal and illegitimate, this information is very, very sought-after in the black market. This aspect is the crux of understanding how healthcare IT works. Any healthcare provider which allows this information to be leaked has been punished very severely by the authorities to deter others from doing this. Despite the regular occurrence of these punishments, data breaches continue to plague the system. Till the time a totally foolproof system is in place, this will continue to be so.