Spread of Health Information Technology in the US

Several
analysts believe that smart phones, tablet computers and personal
digital assistants have given a new direction to the healthcare IT
market. Apple has already come out with a third generation iPad a month
ago with several features that appeal to the medical community. Cisco
predicts there will be 2 billion networked mobile devices in theU.S.by
2015. 

Government policies encourage providers to switch over to
EHRs although penalty for non-compliance is frowned upon by many
analysts. Federal incentives for the “meaningful use” of EHRs did impact
many hospitals and clinical practices across the nation and many of
them are on the path of adopting e-health apps. Today there are web
based applications that allow movement of healthcare data along with the
patient through all points of care. Tablet based applications are
already in use which encourage patients to participate in care, after
discharge from hospitals. With the entry of Telemedicine, real time
communication between patients and physicians has become smooth and
easy. 

Issues Involved:

Health information technology
is fast picking up and it is in the threshold of innovations for making
delivery of care more and more efficient. However, it is facing many
hurdles across the nation. Adoption of EHRs and health information
exchange are two such areas. Sharing of patient information, ensuring
privacy of the patient and security of the healthcare data are major
issues today. EMRs are being implemented but their interoperability,
security of patient data and usability continue to pose serious concerns
among healthcare providers. Exercising control over patient data is
another major hurdle they come across while exchanging patient
information with unaffiliated organizations. Then there is the growing
spectrum needs. According to experts in the field, growing reliance on
wireless devices can put the demand and supply position of spectrum
under severe stress. 

Needing Immediate Attention:

These
are issues that need immediate attention. For example, providing
clarity to rules concerning exchange of information such as, data that
can be shared and the methodology of sharing information as well as
educating the patients would go a long way in building patients’
confidence in the information exchange processes. Training needs of
physicians is another important arena that seeks prompt attention. Since
health IT has a major role in everyday care, physicians are required to
be trained for using EHRs and other computerized tools. Simultaneously
this should be expanded into all levels of physicians’ education and
professional development. However, doctors and hospitals should have the
freedom and flexibility to implement innovative practices that work for
them. Also spectrum related issues need to be addressed on priority
basis. 

A Wake-up Call:

The very shaping up of Health care
is an ongoing process and it needs to be guided by legislation and
technology. Like any other technology that has overcome initial teething
troubles, health IT too would pass the test of time. It holds great
promise for improving productivity, workflow, coordination of care,
enhancing cost savings, and evidence-based comparative effectiveness and
the industry and the legislature cannot afford to ignore it.


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