Healthcare Informatics is the interdisciplinary field that studies and pursues the effective use of biomedical data, information and knowledge for scientific inquiry, problem-solving and decision-making, motivated by efforts to improve human health.
If you work in this field you may be responsible for managing aspects of effective planning, collection, organising, implementation, analysis and use of data in order to create information within the healthcare system – often referred to as “healthcare intelligence.
Adam Lokeh, MD, Vice President of Clinical Informatics for Wolters Kluwer Health Clinical Solutions and a surgeon at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN, defines healthcare intelligence as something which “focuses on the methodologies, processes, and technologies that transform raw clinical data into meaningful and useful information, for a multitude of healthcare-relevant purposes.”
These could range from the development and implementation of systems to capture, store and organise a patient’s medical data; and the compilation and analysis of medical data to improve research, cost control and the quality of care; to the research and analysis of healthcare costs, trends or threats; the electronic exchange of healthcare information between medical providers; or the education of patients using multimedia.
Why is the healthcare informatics field in such high demand?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of health information specialists is projected to grow 21% through 2020, far faster than the average growth for all occupations in the U.S.
Every year, the need for technology in the healthcare space becomes more evident. With the continuous shift away from fee-for-service payment systems and toward value-based care, healthcare organisations are becoming much more increasingly data-driven. From cybersecurity, apps, and artificial intelligence, to Big Data and Blockchain technologies, healthcare executives are determined to integrate IT into their industry.
The U.S. healthcare industry alone is valued at more than $2.8 trillion, and globally 70% of healthcare companies are anticipated to invest in wearables, mobile applications, virtual care, and remote health monitoring for customers by 2018.
According to Joe Fisne, Associate Chief Information Officer at Geisinger Health System:
“We are in an age where technology has extended so far into the realm of healthcare that it has become one of the most critical things, so the heightened need for security follows. And analytics is key, as well. We are investing in some of the Big Data platforms to take information and demonstrate trends, practices and patterns of care, as well as patterns of illness along the way. And that goes hand in hand with population health.”
But, in order to fully understand the impact that IT in healthcare is having, you need to look into both the benefits and challenges of this revolution.
The benefits of IT in healthcare
- Increase in financial benefits
Research has revealed that large hospitals implementing electronic health records have earned between $37M and $59M in a period of five years.
- Faster turnaround time
IT systems enable the auditing of patient records to happen in 1.4 hours as opposed to the 3.9 hours it would take using a paper-auditing system.
- Improved patient care
Medical practitioners regularly use tablets and handheld devices to record real-time patient data and then share it instantly within their updated medical history, storing it in one centralised area – which increases the effectiveness and efficiency of patient care.
- Improvement of healthcare and disease control
Software programs that classify illnesses, their causes and symptoms, into massive databases, allow medical professionals and researchers to find and retrieve valuable information that can be used to fight disease and improve healthcare.
- The implementation of value-based care
Value-based care is about considering the patients and giving them safe, appropriate, and effective care with enduring results, at a reasonable cost. But an important way to understand value is through measurement. IT in healthcare allows medical professionals to track and record the necessary data in order to ensure they can provide value-based care that works.
The challenges of IT in healthcare
- An insufficient data storage capacity
Data storage needs for healthcare double approximately every 18 months. Improving the storage capacity of data will require more effective software solutions to accommodate this massive influx of information.
- Cybersecurity concerns and data breaches
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has set a high standard for encryption technology with the increased threat of repercussions and fines for data breaches of personal health information. Security breaches could cause incidents ranging from lost patient data to lost revenue and reputational damage, and potentially life-threatening incidents. Healthcare organisations will have to invest more in IT infrastructure and apply layered cybersecurity and firewall solutions to prevent these attacks from occurring.
- The growing cost of IT in healthcare
Government regulations, growing energy needs and pressure to coordinate with the insurance requirements proves to be increasingly costly to healthcare organisations.
Want to develop your understanding of healthcare informatics?
Register for the UChicago Healthcare Informatics online short course to gain a broad understanding of the field of HCI, and used it to set yourself apart in the industry.