In hospitals and other medical facilities, information technology is transforming the way we provide care. Not only do nurses input data into a central digitized system, but medical billers and coders file medical claims and update patient records. Electronic health records ensure that errors are caught early, and alert the treating physician if problems arise. The information contained in electronic health records can be accessed from anywhere – doctors can review patient health records while they are away from the patients’ homes, or doctors can access them when they are trying to assess an out-of-town patient. EHRs are also useful in cases when a patient is unresponsive or in need of an e-medicine evaluation.
Health information technology
The digital transformation is sweeping across society, bringing unprecedented advancements in almost every discipline. The digital world makes physical distances irrelevant, and this is certainly true for health care. Health information technology has been a boon for developed countries, but there is still an enormous amount of potential that has yet to be fully realized. Here are some of the most important benefits of health information technology:
IT increases patient engagement by allowing them to access their own health records. This encourages them to become more involved in the treatment process, including making informed decisions. The information available through health information technology also makes follow-up easier for those who miss appointments, consult with doctors, or undergo diagnostic tests.
Further, IT allows health care providers to search for cohorts of patients and monitor their adherence to recommended care. And if you’re a health professional, you’ll be glad to hear that health IT is also helping the healthcare industry save money.
Electronic health records
Electronic health records (EHRs) are a significant development in healthcare. They enable physicians to analyze clinical information at the same time. Physicians must be able to review and analyze patient data on the spot and be available for consultation even if they are on call. EHRs have also become the norm for most healthcare providers, and have several benefits that go beyond patient safety. The Institute of Medicine has identified eight key functions of EHRs.
The most obvious benefit of using EHRs is greater efficiency. Healthcare data is stored in many places and in silos, which makes it difficult to access it quickly. The centralized management of EHRs allows access to patient information, allowing physicians to conduct condition-specific queries and streamline communication. EHRs can be linked with scheduling, automated coding, and insurance claims, generating significant time savings.
Developed over a decade ago, patient portals offer 24/7 access to patients’ medical records. According to the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, 52 percent of patients were offered online access in 2017 and 53 percent of those who were offered it actually accessed their records. However, the data was low for many patients and not all providers are offering patient portal access. For those who are not offered such access, the benefits of patient portals may be more than worth the investment.
Another advantage of patient portals is increased efficiency. Since patients can now request appointments, referrals, and prescription refills online, physicians can focus on other patient needs. This reduces the pressure on their staff, who can then spend more time on more pressing issues. Moreover, the time saved by patient portals also translates to lower costs for the health care system. Hence, patient portals are an excellent investment for both doctors and patients.
With the development of telecommunications infrastructure, telemedicine has been around for decades. In the Civil War, telegraphs were used to report casualties, order medical supplies, and even hold consultations. The Lancet journal discussed the use of telephones in healthcare to cut down on unnecessary office visits. In 1922, a new technology called teledactyl was developed to allow doctors to touch patients remotely.
By enabling patients to consult a doctor without leaving home, telemedicine helps physicians treat patients more efficiently. It allows physicians to provide the same care to a patient as they would if they were in the same office. With this technology, physicians can treat patients in remote locations, saving both time and money. It’s also a cost-effective way to care for patients with chronic conditions, reducing the burden of travel and parking.
While telemedicine has improved healthcare, reimbursement has been a concern for some providers. While many states have legislation to support the use of telemedicine, reimbursement policies still lag behind. Some health systems provide telemedicine consultations as part of their regular care, while others charge patients based on insurance plans and government reimbursement schedules. In addition, some employers offer virtual care services as a perk to their employees. Others may utilize a telemedicine vendor for a one-time flat fee.