The healthcare industry is in the midst of a technological transformation right now. Hospitals and clinics need health IT systems to comply with federal regulations, manage the mounting paperwork and improve health outcomes for patients. Much like other industries such as banking or retail, patients expect healthcare services to be available wherever they go.
However healthcare has lagged behind others when it comes to integrating mobility or remote access to health services through cloud computing. Consumers can access their bank account information or transfer funds through in app on their smart phone. But most patients still cannot access their medical records or take their medical history with them when they move to a new provider.
The change to integrating technology with healthcare services is happening slowly but it is also not uniform across the country. Larger hospitals in urban areas are much ahead of their smaller and rural counterparts. There is still user resistance against change. A number of other forces like bureaucracy, special interests, entrenched vendors are allied against the healthcare leaders who seek to benefit patients with health IT.
What Do We Need to Change Healthcare?
There are three important factors that will play a role in changing the landscape of healthcare in the country.
- User Centric Design
User centric design is often a challenge for health IT systems. One reason for this is because you have many users that utilize the software in different ways – doctors, nurses, administrators and finally patients. An application that works flawlessly for a dentist may not fit the workflows of a dental hygienist. A system that caters very well to needs of staff in a hospital may not be simple or convenient to patients.
Software engineers and vendors must consider the needs of the end-user in every aspect of design and development. The most sophisticated applications or software will fail if the user does not find the tools to be simple, easy-to-use or convenient. Mobile centric and cloud-based platforms will continue to dominate the marketplace so that patients can access health services on the go.
- Standardized APIs
Unlike the banking industry which has standardized processes for sharing data, health IT systems remain incompatible with each other. Each provider may use a different solution even if it is from the same vendor. Data is often locked in silos and fragmented across multiple applications. Patient data is often duplicated, redundant or just plain wrong. Instead of reducing their workload, many physicians continue to struggle with correcting data that is already in the software.
Health IT systems need standardized APIs to access, transfer and share data. We should be able to analyze the ever growing volume of health data generated every day and gain valuable insights into enhancing health outcomes.
- Information Security Measures
Health IT systems contain so much valuable information. It includes everything from personal history to credit card and Social Security numbers. So they are quickly becoming attractive targets for hackers. In response, all entities within the healthcare industry should work together to ensure the safety of patients.
Safe and secure access to patient data of any kind is an essential requirement for health IT systems. Patient privacy and data security should be the watchwords for the healthcare industry. Strong password and identity management, secure methods of user authentication and monetary transactions etc. are all necessary to make sure that the confidentiality of health data is protected.
Security, analytics, patient access, standardized APIs are all different parts of the puzzle that should come together to revolutionize healthcare. Clinicians should view technology as an ally in their goal to help patients, instead of regarding it as an obstacle. It will take the combined efforts of researchers, technologists, physicians, administrators and developers to implement secure, standardized and easily accessible health IT systems.