We are living in an era of information technology that has been radically transformed by the advent of digital technology as it has shaped the way we communicate. Digital communication, wherein any information transmission largely takes place in the form of data, has deeply entrenched the realm of healthcare. Electronic health records (EHRs) that electronically store all medical data have revolutionized the way care is delivered by making information more accessible and easily transferable.
A firm commitment on the part of the federal and state governments to ensure meaningful use and exchange of health information increased the availability of EHRs, and their adoption rates grew. The healthcare industry has currently amassed a growing volume of EHR data; Ponemon Institute’s study, published in 2012 found that the healthcare industry occupied thirty percent of all the electronic data storage in the world.
Another report by the IDC from 2014 showed that the volume of healthcare data in 2013 was 153 exabytes (one exabyte equals a billion gigabytes), a number that is projected to reach 2,314 exabytes by 2020. It’s hardly likely that the massive amount of data will reduce, in fact, it will only increase with time. As data increases, technology will evolve side by side to make mass storage of data a trouble-free process. It’s no longer an option to indulge in the digitization of healthcare and not have technology lend a hand in delivering care services.
Electronic Health Records
The different kinds of data that EHRs record includes administrative and billing data, patient demographics, progress notes, vital signs, medical histories, diagnoses, medications, immunization dates, allergies, radiology images, lab and test results, etc. So, an EHR is a much more comprehensive record than a paper chart that providers possess about a patient’s health information. They were built to share this information with other health care professionals and organizations in a secure manner. Subsequently was birthed the concept of interoperability that provides a link across the nation to ensure that all those concerned with the care of a patient have access to the same information anytime and anywhere.
Healthcare has reaped not one, but many benefits from the use of EHRs and these include:
- Increased efficiency
- Well-informed and quick decision making
- Reduced medical errors
- Reduced workload
- Increased practice efficiencies and cost savings
- Improved diagnostics and patient outcomes
- Improved overall patient care
Dangers of siloed data
The role of data in healthcare thus became more defined as the world turned over to the present 21st century. Gradually, hospitals began to realize the full scope of collecting and analyzing data. Further, if there is inadequate data management or lack thereof, then the consequences could be unnecessary risk and cost inefficiencies. It’s critical for hospitals to realize that the dangers of data siloes are very real.
Data siloes mean any set of data that is kept isolated in an organization. The sole purpose of keeping data archived is to share it. If data is not shared, it could lead to discrepancies in the care of patients and in a business like healthcare that deals with lives on a daily basis, this becomes an extremely risky factor. So, it’s not enough to just have an EHR, but also to utilize the purpose it was built for. Sharing information is vital for any healthcare organization if they are to improve the speed, quality, safety, coordination, and cost of patient care.
As the information revolution was expanding, the term ‘Big data’ made its way into healthcare in the midst of the previous century. The knowledge stored in the countless mounds of big data can lead health professionals to change the life of the patients for the better. To that extent, Big data technologies have already made headway into the field of healthcare and have made a considerable impact too. Millions of doctors rely on imaging data for medical diagnosis, and moreover, technology has made lifestyle data quantifiable which in this day and age can be transferred from patient to doctor via cell phones or other personal devices.
Taking decisions while diagnosing a patient cannot be an intuitive thing when there is such a massive amount of data available for analysis. Real-time decision making through analytics was made possible through the intervention of technology in hospitals worldwide. This does not only give doctors the ability to make calls about what should be done faster but also leads them to make more accurate calls. Intuitive learning, machine learning, and self-learning algorithms are technologies that have all the more potential for health care.
Smart devices during our times have become the very source of information as a lot of personal health information is recorded in them. Technology has made it possible to reach a patient from across nations. Through product like Datashop, doctors are able to consult and come to decisions about treatments through advanced algorithms providing point-of-care decision support.
As health systems evolve, its technology infrastructure should evolve with it. The evolution of technology and data has disrupted healthcare in a way that can be applied to patients’ lives to improve their health. It is true that fully embracing health information technology is not easy and can even be costly, but is there a better way to enhance the efficiency of a healthcare organization at a time when other industries are booming by the use of it. Today, there is not a single person who is not connected to the rest of the world, albeit via technology, then why should health professionals be left out?
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