Health IS Technology Blog

Numbers and Technology Can Affect Your Health: A Brief Overview of Health Informatics


A physician reviews a patient's health information.

 

If you were to look up the word informatics in the dictionary, it would closely be defined as the processing, analysis, and application of data and information. The art of informatics is practiced in many fields including the military, finance, education, science, health, and even in sports as a means to improve big picture thinking.

As a sports numbers geek, I always find it fascinating how aggregated statistics and numbers can impact executive decisions for general managers of a sports franchise. I’m even more fascinated how statistics can positively improve an organization’s efficiency. In the case of a sports team, informatics can translate into improving a winning percentage. And in the case for businesses, it can translate into larger profit margins.

Taking an empirical Moneyball approach towards decision making in sports can be exciting, but it’s nowhere near on how crucial and beneficial informatics can be to our very own health. Although informatics do cover many bases, it primarily tends to be linked with healthcare and its role on improving patient care. Healthcare is continuously building a reciprocal relationship with technology and computer science in an effort to leverage more improvements in patient care.

The progression of health informatics has been long foreseen due to federal healthcare laws that calls the industry to become more extensive in their use of electronic health records. The extensive use of informatics has not only affected patients, but has also affected how physicians, nurses, researchers, and healthcare administrators have had to adjust to the new regulations.

Many healthcare providers today rely on technological advances for a more accurate understanding of health data and statistics. A better understanding of a patient’s compiled health stats ultimately leads to better treatment plans.

Today, it’s no surprise that the whole gamut of healthcare has really squeezed the most out of health informatics as a means to eliminate drudgery and guesswork in their respected field as well.

 

 Healthcare is continuously building a reciprocal relationship with technology and computer science in an effort to leverage more improvements in patient care 

 

Sharing is Caring

Prior to the use of health informatics, the accessibility of clinical data and information wasn’t readily available due to the lack of digital innovation. This was a time when chunks of data were just ‘floating’ around that a slew of doctors and researchers wanted to get their hands on, but couldn’t. It was a dark time…before the advent of informatics…before the INTERNET.

The demand for health informatics sky rocketed as the complexity of health issues increased. Data was piling up and there needed to be a solution to access all of the overflowing data pronto. The barriers to accessing health data was the de facto reason thought to restrict the ability for health officials and leaders to fully address emerging health problems.

There’s also an issue that the inability to share information and integrate data effectively across disparate sources would limit the amount of collaboration between parties. Sharing data within medical departments was one thing, but the ability to share data to other researchers and doctors across the nation, or in a larger context the world, meant dealing with a bigger dragon.

Collaboration and research groups naturally grew in numbers and was required for larger projects that dealt with more complicated health issues. This demonstrated that an information system needed to be implemented and available within the healthcare community. Medical databases and cloud solutions finally helped relieved many of those issues by allowing those in the healthcare field to store, collect, analyze, and most importantly, share data together.

 

What Does the Future Hold?

The rise of health informatics is also paramount in healthcare’s shift towards more evidence based medicine. Although not a complete paradigm shift, evidence based medicine is now better supported and takes advantage of the robust amounts of data that is made available from conducted research.

Healthcare envisions a greater need to train the current and following generation of practioners, administrators, and clinicians to hone their HIT (Health Information Technology) proficiency to the next level as one of their main skills.

Healthcare envisions a greater need to train the current generation of practioners and administrators to hone their Health Information Technology proficiency to the next level.

An emphasis to systematically review all of the best available data from sources such as clinical trials, lab results, and case studies will greatly benefit patient care. But speaking of data, big data will also play a larger role in health informatics as well. Big data is still perceived as just a trendy buzz word, while in reality, it’s holds great value in the health informatics.

The evolution of health informatics will really need to capitalize big data in new ways as a means of organizing the mass amounts of structured and unstructured health information. Gaining insight from aggregated data can be a nuisance because of the exhausting amounts of sub-populations and privacy issues that come from the data itself.

So what does that hold for the future of health informatics? The number of health informatic jobs will gradually increase seeing that the mandates in healthcare want more exclusive sharing of electronic health records. There will be an increase in more specialties that need the use of more skilled and competent informatics professionals.

Healthcare also envisions a greater need to train the current and following generation of practioners, administrators, and clinicians to hone their HIT (Health Information Technology) proficiency to the next level as one of their main skills. This can only lead to more physician practices and healthcare organizations bringing more potential colleagues on board that are more computer savvy in the near future.

 

The Bottom Line

We’re transitioning into an exciting time as technology is being creatively blended within healthcare in useful ways to improve better health outcomes. Informatics have generated new innovative approaches and new predictive measures to help pave the way in addressing health issues.

Health informatics will continue to propel itself as a major contributor towards improving healthcare just as long as we keep our zeal and continuous passion for technology and the evolving field of informatics.

Although health informatics can be valuable, patients should still play an active and responsible role in their health. Empowering patients with convenient access to their health information via online should encourage the shift from palliative care towards more preventative care moving forward. Even if a patient were to become too reliant on technology to improve their health, the information provided to them is as good as useless if they don’t take the initiative to apply that knowledge.

In all, technology solutions and informatics should be able to create more efficient workflows by enabling nurses, physicians, and healthcare professionals to prioritize patient needs over figuring out any computer difficulties they may experience.

It’s always a win win to lessen the burden of physicians having to scramble through any sort of technology, right? That being said, USF Health Information Systems does do a pretty good job of lessening that burden for our multi-specialty group of doctors, researchers, and med students here on campus. It’s pretty evident that behind every successful academic medical center, is an even stronger support system…Information Systems that is (cue rimshot).

 

 

Sources

http://online.annamaria.edu/mba/resource/impact-of-health-informatics-on-patient-care

http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/health_systems_and_services/the_big-data_revolution_in_us_health_care

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/in-the-literature/2013/nov/the-impact-of-health-information-technology-on-physician-services