The Role of Information Technology in Health Care
Health care organizations face fast transformation, with rampant digitalization and ever-evolving industry demands. Information technology has been key to implementing secure, accurate, efficient tools and systems to improve patient health and facility operations.
Health information technology has drastically affected the health care landscape, but the growth of tools like the Internet of Things, machine learning and artificial intelligence pave the way for much more change in the future. Forecasts say the health care IT market will see a compound annual growth rate of 29.3% between 2020 and 2030. Let’s explore this crucial field and why information technology is valuable in health care.
What Is Health Information Technology?
Health information technology, also known as medical information technology, encompasses various tasks related to the data and electronics that support health care systems. These systems use massive amounts of data, so a significant part of HIT is managing the information, including processing, storing, organizing, sharing and securing it. HIT also covers more traditional IT tasks like setting up networks and connecting equipment.
Technology plays a role in almost every part of a medical visit, from making an appointment in a patient portal to recording vitals in an electronic health record to identifying population trends with an analytics platform. HIT oversees a range of technologies for tasks, including care coordination, information sharing, patient monitoring and decision-making.
Some examples of HIT and their roles in the health care environment are as follows.
- EHRs: EHRs are a significant part of HIT, providing digitized patient charts. Many EHRs offer more sophisticated tools and integrations in areas like analytics, e-prescribing and imaging. Their primary purpose is to facilitate information sharing between providers and departments, so they must accommodate diverse data types such as lab results and imaging. Since these systems underscore most activities in a medical facility, efficiency, ease of use and security are crucial.
- Clinical decision support systems: A CDSS integrates with an EHR to analyze data and assist providers in delivering care. It may recommend screening, flag a risk factor or alert the provider to a potential drug interaction. A CDSS relies heavily on algorithms and the knowledge base technicians give it. To minimize risk, HIT professionals must stay on top of changing legal and clinical guidelines and the quality of incoming EHR data.
- Electronic prescribing: E-prescribing adds considerable efficiency, accuracy and security to the process of getting medication to the patient. These systems can significantly improve medication adherence, reduce fraud, speed up workflows and mitigate substance abuse. Some HIT concerns include how well an e-prescribing platform integrates with other programs, complies with government requirements and offers ease of use.
- Networks and data storage: HIT also encompasses the backdrop for all these solutions, from hardware selections to building robust and secure networks. Some considerations include whether a company stores data on- or off-premises or through a cloud-based system. These decisions significantly impact overall efficiency and reliability of the technology, along with the potential for integration with other applications.
- Telehealth platforms: Telehealth platforms facilitate remote care and can pose security challenges for HIT teams, but they’re an excellent resource when implemented well. The need for a consistent video stream can also increase technical demands for devices and networks. Robust platforms can integrate with EHRs and scheduling tools for more capabilities.
- Patient portals: Many patients can now access their health information from their phones or computers. A patient portal can include everything from reviewing test results and messaging providers to paying a bill or making an appointment. This technology can help reduce administrative tasks and improve chart accuracy, treatment adherence and patient satisfaction. HIT professionals must pay special attention to privacy and data sharing with patient portals.
- Analytics tools: Analytics tools make sense of the vast amounts of data moving through health care facilities. HIT helps to automate and aggregate the data into an analytics platform so administrators and other decision-makers can see up-to-date information. In HIT, creating these solutions involves the analytics platform itself and the hardware and software that collects data, such as an EHR, billing software and remote patient monitoring tools.
- Practice management software: Lastly, practice management software can simplify everyday administrative tasks like billing, scheduling and reporting. It can improve accuracy and efficiency. These systems might integrate with other technologies, like an EHR or patient portal, and must offer high security and ease of use.
What Do HIT Professionals Do?
Since HIT is such a broad field, professionals’ work can vary widely. One might tackle more traditional IT demands, like setting up a secure network and running system upgrades, while another could interview frontline workers to learn more about what they want in their EHR. Others could assess data quality, facilitate staff technology training and monitor regulatory compliance. The industry is vast, yet many workers have highly specialized skill sets due to the unique nature of the health care environment.
Some of their titles might include health information technician or health informatics specialist, but all HIT professionals share the goal of improving health care for everyone. Primary concerns include accuracy, clinical efficacy, cost, data privacy, compliance, risk mitigation and employee training.
Still, not everyone has the same wants and needs. HIT environments must meet many different entities’ demands.
- Providers and support staff: Meeting day-to-day operational demands calls for tools that support efficiency and clinical efficacy. Workers might rely on intuitive EHRs and automated tools, among other resources that help them do their jobs well and with as little frustration as possible. HIT workers must understand health providers’ workflow and requirements.
- Patients: Virtually all HIT comes back to serving the patient. For example, reliable networks and backup equipment ensure care even during emergencies like power outages, while clinical decision support systems can prevent misdiagnoses. Patient-facing technology, such as patient portals, can meet more immediate demands. HIT facilitates secure solutions and ensures results like high returns on investment and patient satisfaction.
- Administrators: Administrators may need more overarching technology solutions, like analytics, reporting and data visibility tools. These individuals often worry about HIT’s ability to provide results and be financially beneficial, so HIT professionals need to consider the business impacts of these technologies.
- Government and industry regulators: HIT solutions must meet strict regulatory standards, like those from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These regulations put aspects like patient privacy and the reliability of emergency services front and center. Government and industry organizations can also use HIT data for tasks like making policies and clinical recommendations and determining reimbursement rates.
- Insurance providers: Insurance providers might use HIT — directly or indirectly — to assess provider and facility efficacy and make decisions about payments and partnerships. For example, during negotiations, a payer might analyze metrics and reports from a hospital to determine appropriate reimbursement rates.
- Research institutions: Even those outside the health care system rely on HIT to support innovation and scientific discovery. Universities and researchers may use HIT directly to collect information, such as in clinical trials, or assess vast amounts of data in large studies.
Unsurprisingly, security and effective care are top priorities for HIT across all use cases. Innovative and effective technology is always in demand, but HIT professionals must ensure data privacy and minimize risk as much as possible. Unlike IT in other industries, HIT can significantly affect health and safety, making it a unique field.
How Does HIT Benefit Health Care Facilities?
HIT is essential for health care facilities of all sizes. It sets up the basics for running a practice, like an EHR and e-prescribing, but it can go much further. As technology evolves, HIT becomes an integral part of ongoing operations. Health care facilities must adapt to new security threats, regulations, patient demands and more while working to improve overall care.
A poor approach to HIT can mean much more than out-of-date software or increased paperwork. It could come with huge fines for security breaches, significant expenses from inefficient processes, reduced quality of care and other adverse impacts. Good HIT can help a practice keep pace with the industry and maximize profits, while exceptional HIT can help a facility stand out from the pack and become a true industry leader.
Below are some of the advantages a robust HIT strategy has to offer.
1. Improved Quality of Care
With better data, efficiency and savings, health care facilities can greatly improve quality of care. Say a hospital uses a CDSS during visits to help identify risk factors. It could improve the early detection of many conditions and reduce misdiagnoses. A more efficient EHR or automated patient monitoring might minimize paperwork, allowing clinicians to focus on delivering care. Since administrative burden contributes so much to burnout in health care, these changes can have beneficial impacts.
Technology solutions are also an essential part of reaching many populations. For instance, people who live in rural areas can significantly benefit from telehealth solutions or remote patient monitoring. While boosting access to affordable care, health care facilities can bring in a new stream of patients and improve their community outreach.
2. Reduced Costs
Hospital expenditures come from many places, including labor, prescription costs and penalties for non-compliance and errors. Incorporating HIT with operations can mitigate these costs. Technology solutions might reduce labor costs, errors, unnecessary testing, overprescribing and other expenses.
For example, an easy-to-use EHR can minimize the time it takes to record notes and submit orders and prescriptions, allowing clinicians to take on more patients or avoid burnout. Some financial benefits include less risk of non-compliance, increased patient flow and reduced administrative labor and turnover.
3. Data Accuracy and Visibility
HIT plays a critical role in the quality of data and its insights. Even if you have a good EHR, if the data is incorrect, outdated or duplicated, it will affect your analyses. HIT professionals might run validation procedures, automate data collection or conduct staff training to ensure high-quality data. Many HIT solutions boost data quality on their own. For instance, switching from paper-based notes to electronic ones can minimize transcription errors or loss from handwritten, physical records.
HIT professionals must also use this information effectively, wrangling massive swaths of data into reports and insights that decision-makers can understand. With more sources of information appearing each day, HIT makes sense of it all.
4. Better Compliance and Security
Technology has become a health care necessity, but without a competent HIT team behind tech initiatives, organizations put their patients and the business at risk. HIT professionals understand the severity of data security and know how to implement risk-mitigating solutions that comply with regulations and standards. With security designed for the health care industry, HIT enables new technology without sacrificing compliance, efficiency or patient privacy.
5. Room for Innovation
The medical field has come a long way in the last few decades, in no small part thanks to HIT. Strong HIT lays the groundwork for sophisticated technology solutions. It might improve profitability and free up funds for new equipment or provide a flexible network that easily incorporates a new platform. Data availability alone can contribute to research and population health management.
Along with necessary innovations for security, HIT provides technology changes that allow facilities to stay competitive and position themselves as leaders. Whatever your short- and long-term goals entail, HIT sets the stage.
How MicroHealth Does HIT
At MicroHealth, we understand the interconnectedness of health care technology, which is why we offer consulting expertise across many different areas of HIT, including:
- Software development and integration
- Independent verification and validation and testing
- Cloud development and management
- Data analytics
- Medical simulations
- Development, security and operations
- Clinical training and implementation
We have numerous HIT experts and clinicians on staff to help us put health first. As a government services provider and veteran-led team, we have rigorous certifications and experience across federal and local government departments and agencies. Our services start with a robust assessment that considers your existing systems and goals. Then, we’ll create a solution, which can range from connecting two legacy systems to building a custom EHR from the ground up.
The Center for Verification and Evaluation has verified us as a Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business and a Small Business Administration 8(a) firm. Our process maturity meets the criteria for CMMI-DEV Level 3 and CMMI-SVC Level 3, and certifications include ISO 9001:2015, ISO 27001:2013 and ISO 20000-1:2018. These qualifications allow us to provide dependable service to industries with strict requirements. Our contract vehicles and schedules include Seaport NxG, GSA VETS 2, CMS SPARC, GSA IT 70 and many others.
MicroHealth prioritizes people, value and innovation. Empowering people through accurate data supports informed, effective strategic decisions that lead to better care. Meanwhile, high-value solutions support optimal profitability for all parties, and innovative technology brings powerful benefits to your patients. We balance various HIT demands to help you serve patients and stay competitive.
Prioritize HIT With MicroHealth
Finding the right team for HIT isn’t always straightforward. You’ll need to work with people who know the field inside and out and share the same goals. At MicroHealth, we’re health care specialists first and technologists second. We want to give your patients the best care possible while providing sustainable business solutions. Our approach maximizes the value of HIT so your facility can streamline operations, boost accuracy, stay compliant and meet an array of other goals.
The capable team at MicroHealth brings reliable white-glove service to nearly any HIT project. To learn more about MicroHealth and our approach to HIT, reach out to us today!