In today’s faced paced society, we see the influence of technology in almost every sector we utilize on a day-to-day basis. Now more than ever before, we see the influence of technology in the healthcare sector growing at an accelerated rate. In the early 19th century it was common practice for physicians to visit patients in their homes. However, due to the growing population and increasing demands for healthcare it is impossible for physicians is to travel to each patient’s home to provide health care. Therefore, patients usually visit the clinic or hospital to receive health care. The need to find better and more efficient ways to store, retrieve, and communicate health information has become more important as the population has grown and healthcare has become more complex. Advances in technology are providing solutions for managing healthcare information.
What is Health Information Technology or Health IT
Health Information Technology (HIT) or healthcare IT or health IT is the application of information processes involving both computer hardware and software that support the storage, retrieval, sharing, and use of health care information, data, and knowledge for communication and decision making. When healthcare services converge with technology, the result is health information technology (health IT).
The word ‘technology’ refers to making, modifying, using, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods of organization, to solve problems. The use of technology also improves preexisting solutions to problems, achieves goals, handles applied input/output relation, and performs specific functions. Patient’s healthcare is efficiently managed when the right technology is applied. For example, it is easier to transmit patient information across broader communication networks. Furthermore, when it comes to providing quality healthcare, technology tools provide better accuracy compared to manual tools. A very important component of health IT is the Electronic Health Record (EHR).
What is an Electronic Health Record (EHR)?
Electronic Health Record (EHR) is the central component of the health IT infrastructure. An EHR is an individual's official, computerized health record and is available to multiple facilities and agencies. Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology is fundamental to the federal government’s efforts to make it easier for health care institutions to share medical data with other health care providers and groups such as Health Information Exchanges (HIE).
There are other essential elements of the health IT infrastructure. For example, the electronic medical record (EMR) is an individual's health record within a healthcare facility. EHR and EMR need to be accessible to different healthcare institutions and amongst health care providers to provide quality service. Another important aspect of health IT is the personal health record (PHR), which is an individual's self-maintained health record. A PHR also serves as a system of record for an individual’s medical history and serves as a beneficial tool to track and communicate health information between healthcare institutions and providers. Another important component of health IT is Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO). The RHIO is an organization that oversees communications among the other elements and unifies them geographically.
Benefits of Health IT
- Systematic tracking & sharing of electronic medical records (EMR)
- Efficient delivery of medical services (For example, prescription refill services, doctor consultation, and health advice via email and other online systems)
- Preventive healthcare systems
- Preventive and corrective medical devices
- Enhanced medical & professional career network systems
Understanding EHR, EMR, PHR and RHIO, is the foundation to understanding the role technology plays in the healthcare world. Health IT systems using electronic health records have an edge over the traditional manual health care models. Automated health care systems use patient records, coupled with technology tools, machines, to provide high quality service. In addition, Health IT systems systematically track patient data, therefore making it easier to track patient progress overtime. Furthermore, patient data can be used to perform research and to develop health solutions. Healthcare technology plays an important function in provision of quality healthcare to meet the growing health care needs of our society. Quality healthcare will be impossible without the use of technology tools.
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