Information technology systems are not just a thing of the cyber world meant for tech companies. Health care environments utilize ever-increasingly robust computer systems to manage staffing, track patient treatment, access medical profiles, and more. Just like medical professionals of all types who are adapting to a health care landscape that involves much more health information technology, nurse practitioners will need to become adept at working with computer and information systems as their use and integration increases in every aspect of health care.
Basics of Health Information Technology
Though health information technology is vast in form and function, at its core is the ability to better store and transmit information. One primary component of health information technology is the Electronic Health Record, or EHR. This record contains an individual patient’s complete medical history and should include everything from past treatments to allergies and current prescriptions. A well-developed EHR can provide a comprehensive outlook on a patient’s medical history and physical makeup. However, this type of data collection only scratches the surface of how information technology systems can be applied to health care. Applications exist that allow health care institutions to perform overarching functions such as tracking operations, scheduling staff, maintaining communication with both staff and patients, keeping real-time inventory information, and more. A health information technology system could affect every facet of a health care center’s operations.
Five Benefits of Health Information Technology
- Increased Patient Safety: Health information systems can not only store and display but synthesize patient information. This makes it possible to, for example, program security checks that could alert medical personnel of adverse effects the patient might experience on a certain medication before it is prescribed. Being able to store all of a patient’s information, including lab results, medical imaging, and more in one place can also help avoid costly mistakes that arise when not all relevant information is available during decision-making.
- Efficient Care Coordination: Information technology systems allow multiple medical professionals simultaneously involved in a patient’s care to record, disseminate, and share updates, logs, and findings. The nonprofit health system Catholic Health Initiatives, operator of more than ninety hospitals across multiple states, utilizes a robust information system that allows its staff to document and share every facet of a patient’s treatment and data. This cross-disciplinary information sharing has drastically improved patient satisfaction as well as helping coordinate care and case management to create a more seamless experience for caretaker and patient alike.
- Enhanced Performance Analysis: Utilizing technology could allow a host of avenues by which staff performance, patient care and stability, and institution efficiency could be tracked. Health information technology could compute staffing decisions based on individual skillsets. It could also allow treatment decisions to be made proactively based on past performance data. Patients could submit anonymous feedback regarding their level of care, providing administrators with better feedback on staff qualifications and fit. And governing bodies could utilize performance metrics to more accurately analyze institution effectiveness.
- Increased Patient Information Accessibility: Health information technology systems could allow seamless and instant access to patient records for every medical professional working with a particular patient, allowing lab technicians, specialists, physicians, and nurse practitioners to access pertinent information and better inform treatment. But not only do they enable better access for medical professionals, but for patients as well. Digital versions of patient files (including their entire EHR) could potentially be accessed from anywhere at any time, allowing patients to be more involved in their treatment plans and stay better informed about their conditions and care.
- Reduced Operational Costs: Information technology systems allow health institutions to more strategically allocate resources and save significant amounts of money, energy, time, and supplies. One example of this is utilizing comprehensive data concerning the specific needs of admitted patients and combining it with information about individual staff skills, availability, and even up-to-the-minute information including fatigue levels when applicable, to more effectively staff and arrange medical personnel to best serve patients. In addition to staffing arrangements, technology systems can allow better management of supplies. Inventory, refrigerator contents, equipment check-outs, and infinitely more can be tracked, viewed, and updated in real time with information systems. The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology reports that an estimated 50 percent of health finances may be wasted each year due to system inefficiencies, and that hospitals could save potentially millions of dollars by utilizing better health information technology.
Information technology systems are revolutionizing every industry in America today, and health care is no exception. Utilizing ever-increasingly robust systems in our medical institutions and procedures could not only increase efficiency but improve the experiences of staff, patients, and families and even save countless lives.
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