Healthcare informatics is a term that refers to the use of information technology in the medical field. There are many applications for healthcare informatics, most of which use computers. The general uses of healthcare informatics include electronic record keeping, information dissemination, data tracking, data analysis, and indexing. There are several software packages on the market that perform one or more of these jobs, and more are developed and improved upon each year. These applications have provided significant benefits for physicians, administrators, insurers, and patients.
Streamlining Medical Records
One way in which healthcare informatics has improved medical care is by making records more accessible. In the past, medical records were kept in paper copies. When a patient went to a specialist, the specialist would have to order copies of the patient’s paper records from his or her primary care physician. When the charts arrived, they may have been illegible because of poor writing, badly organized, or just arranged in a system that was different from what the specialist used. Even worse, the specialist may have had to wait days for the paper records to arrive, and the information the patient may have given could have been inaccurate, leading to misdiagnoses or ordering the wrong tests. Electronic records standardize record-keeping systems and put the information right at the physician’s fingertips, reducing waiting time and eliminating error.
Medical Research At Your Physician’s Fingertips
Healthcare informatics also involves the use of electronic systems to track medical research. There is a wealth of medical research available, and busy physicians do not have time to review all of it. Some of the newest applications in healthcare informatics allow physicians to type in symptoms or even a condition and retrieve all of the latest research, including information about new treatments and clinical trials. This ensures that patients have access to the best and most cutting-edge care.
More Effective Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are better organized using healthcare informatics. Data trends can be tracked and viewed automatically without length data analysis and hand-calculations. This allows physicians to see trends in the clinical trials that they may not have noticed previously, as well as prevents errors in data calculations. In addition, the combination of record keeping systems and clinical trials data can help physicians identify patients who might be good candidates for clinical trials.
Patients As Their Own Advocates
Healthcare informatics also helps patients take charge of their own health. From health information online to electronic forms of translated patient information, patients have more access to information about health than ever before. Having this information helps patients seek preventative care, helps them identify early signs of health problems, helps them identify better treatment options, and helps them ask more informed questions. All of these scenarios can lead to better patient health outcomes.
Computer applications also help patients with chronic conditions monitor their health. Some programs even allow them to transmit data about their blood pressure, vital signs, etc. directly to their physician or healthcare professional. This helps physicians catch early warning signs of complications before the patient can suffer a significant negative health event. In the past, a patient had to wait for their next appointment, and by then they could already have suffered damage to their health.
The healthcare informatics field is developing so fast that it is difficult to predict what new applications will be unveiled in the future. However, as the focus turns to eliminating waste and error in the healthcare system, the field will continue working on improving efficiency and access to information.
About the Guest Author
Dale Jenkins is a physician and writer who blogs about healthcare issues and how technology is transforming the medical field. For more on this topic, visit Top 10 TED Talks on Healthcare.