Health practitioners are dedicated towards the care of patients and continuously strive to enhance the safety and quality of care. The quality of care can be greatly enhanced if they make use of health information technology (health IT or HIT), which typically involves the exchange of health information via computers or web enables devices. The reason for the increasing popularity of HIT are the benefits it provides to the users. Implementation of this technology not only improves the quality of healthcare but also prevents medical errors.

Rising healthcare costs often invite criticism from medical beneficiaries who look for more affordable healthcare with the same quality of services. Health information technology ( HIT ) can reduce healthcare spending while delivering the efficiency patients and doctors desire. Many researchers have actively studied the field to identify its impact in the field of medicine. These studies indicate that health IT systems can improve adherence to clinical guidelines and disease surveillance. Other benefits of health IT includes improved hospital administration, a paperless office and more.

There are many types of health IT systems and some of them are discussed below:

Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE)

Computerized physician order entry ( CPOE ) technology enables clinicians to electronically order medications, tests, services and referrals for medical beneficiaries. A CPOE allows you to enter all the orders, manage medication administration records and also change the order if required. All this is done electronically, through the web and allows hospitals to eliminate duplicate order entries. This technology helps users store and preserve important data and ultimately this helps in the improvement of patient safety and health. Most CPOE’s include features such as alerts and reminders that effectively warn hospitals of potential adverse drug events.

Personal Health Records ( PHRs )

Individuals have begun to actively participate in management of their own health and tools such as personal health records ( PHRs ) have helped them in their effort. This helpful tool allows patients to collect, manage and share their health information electronically. A PHR allows you to access your personal health information through the web at any time. Many user-friendly options are available allowing you to enter information such as insurance claims, pharmacy data and even home diagnostics.

Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)

These applications are very useful in reducing the probability of medical errors and improve patient care. Electronic medical records ( EMR ) are not meant for individual use but are used by healthcare providers to store medical information within hospital(s) or health delivery systems. Users can enter the health information of patients in a given set of databases that can be accessed when required. Information relating to drug allergies, treatments or medical history can be entered to deliver quality patient care. Hospitals using EMRs have enhanced staff and patientcommunication, and have streamlined their paper medical records. Since the staff can easily access patient medical history, they can use this information to better manage the disease(s), deliver patient-specific services and also coordinate with other doctors who are treating the same individual.

Electronic Health Records (EHR)

An electronic medical record system may include administrative activities such as billing, but electronic health records ( EHR ) on the other hand are generally more patient-focused. An EHR system allows physicians to share data so they can make an informed decision about any single patient. Some hospitals also use EHRs to identify hospital-acquired infections or any incident related to drug use.

E-Prescribing

E-prescribing systems allow hospitals to enter prescription data into computers connected via an optimized network and server. This information is available to all doctors attending patients and it helps them reduce or eliminate prescription errors. These solutions also help physicians adhere to treatment guidelines and see how patients are responding to their line of treatment. Some advance e-prescribing systems allow doctors to check other drugs taken by a patient. This helps to alert physicians if there are reactions to specific drug interactions.

E-prescribing applications are among the many solutions available within the market. Hospitals can select vendors who are offering systems that meet their various needs. Company representatives will happily to describe the benefits and help you pick the best solution for your healthcare facility. You may be considering to purchase a health IT system, but not all hospitals are eager to deploy them. Although useful, health information technology brings the question of security to the users. The vendors must therefore ensure that they deploy relevant software that helps maintain the privacy and security of electronic health information. Surveys that have been done to measure health IT adoption show privacy to be the top concern for hospitals. Many healthcare facilities are concerned that their data may be misused by unauthorized people, leading to serious privacy issues.

The vendors providing health IT systems also have to ensure their solutions are HIPAA compliant. According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ( HIPAA ), hospitals must follow certain regulations to use and disclose information relating to a patient’s health condition, as well as, the provision of and payment for healthcare. Despite the benefits provided by health IT, many hospitals still use the traditional means to store and process data. The cost of electronic health/medical record systems is one of the major barriers for universal adoption. The administration is not very keen on spending dollars on employee training or on system maintenance. Hospital employees may resist change and may not agree to spend extra time in training. Most employees view EMR / EHR implementation as more work and try to avoid these systems. Moreover, these systems may have to be upgraded with advancements in technology, and this means further expenditure for the hospital. As a result of these constraints, health IT systems are limited to hospitals with more financial stability and are not very widely deployed in hospitals with smaller profit margins.

Health IT vendors say that the hospitals hesitating to deploy these systems in their facilities must consider the significant cost savings. The hospitals with traditional systems may experience several medication errors, slow communication and additional time for clinical care documentation. The time and costs associated with these systems can be decreased by the use of health IT systems that streamline the entire administrative process and deliver the benefits discussed above. The government is also encouraging the hospitals to go electronic and is providing incentives and aids to hospitals who are considering to deploy health IT infrastructure.

These hospitals can also secure their database even if they face natural calamities like hurricanes, floods or earthquakes. Previously, many important health records were damaged or lost during these disasters. But, this technology has changed how people manage their health records and thanks to health IT, patient records are safe at all times. Technology has also ensured that your patient record is readily available even if you travel out of town. All of the records are available online and this means your new doctor can refer to your data while prescribing medication. Overall, health information technology offers many benefits that overshadow its drawbacks and the hospitals must seriously consider using them for improving efficiency and delivering better patient care.