Adoption of Information Technology in Healthcare: Benefits & Constraints

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1 Adoption of Information Technology in Healthcare: Benefits & Constraints A WiredFox Technologies White Paper

2 2 Adoption of Information Technology in Healthcare: Benefits & Constraints By Jeff Yelton

3 3 Adoption of Information Technology in Healthcare: Benefits & Constraints By Jeff Yelton Published by WiredFox Technologies All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review. Copyright 2012 by WiredFox Technologies First Edition, 2012 Published in USA

4 4 Disclaimer This book is designed to provide information on general business only. This information is provided, and sold, with the knowledge that the publisher and author do not offer any legal or other professional advice. In the case of a need for such expertise consult with the appropriate professional. This book does not contain all pieces of information available on the subject. This book has not been created for any specific individual or organization s situation or needs. Every effort has been made to make this book as accurate as possible. However, there may be some typographical or content errors. Therefore this book should serve only as a general guide and should not be considered an ultimate source of subject information. This book contains information that may be dated. The intention of this book is only to educate and entertain. The author and publisher shall have no liability or responsibility to any person or entity regarding any loss or damage incurred, or alleged to have incurred, directly or indirectly, by the information contained in this book. You hereby agree to be bound by this disclaimer, or you may return this book within the guarantee time period for a full refund.

5 5 Table of Contents Adoption of Information Technology in Healthcare Benefits of Integration of Information Technology in Healthcare Need for Advanced Health Information Technology Electronic Medical Records Benefits of Using EMRs Factors Constraining the Adoption of EMRs in Healthcare Contact Information

6 6 Adoption of Information Technology in Healthcare In the past decade, notable advancements in technology have transformed the way our economy functions. The new technology provides better services, it has increased reliability and it has left its mark on almost every field, including: education, manufacturing, healthcare and business. Its rate of adoption, however, has varied significantly from industry to industry and even from country to country. Some industries have grown and improved by innovatively integrating the latest technologies, but others, like healthcare, have been tentative to embrace change. While the focus of technology in healthcare is developing new technologies for improved research and for better treatment for various ailments and diseases, their actual adoption of the new technology has been very slow. The majority of healthcare players still operate in old models. The healthcare industry, a primarily data driven industry, depends on the prompt and accurate availability of critical data. However, the industry s reliance on the paper format of functioning is restricting its ability to deliver high quality service, as healthcare providers are not able to find, or access, data easily. Various studies have illustrated that the primary reason given for not adopting certain technologies is the lack of infrastructure. This may be the case in some countries, but the US, which ranks high on the infrastructure front, is also lagging in their adoption of technology. Although the GDP expenditure on healthcare services in the US has grown from 5% in 1960 to 16% in 2010, according to a 2010 report published by the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality, the US continues to rank low on a number of healthcare quality indicators.

7 7 Benefits of Integration of Information Technology in Healthcare David Blumenthal, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, submitted a report stating that, Information is the lifeblood of modern medicine and health information technology is destined to be its circulatory system. There are significant benefits that come with using information technology systems in healthcare, including: Service providers can make more informed decisions faster as they have instant access to critical patient data. The convenient, and real- time, access to data allows the healthcare service providers to keep an eye on the health, as well as the progress, of their patients. The doctor s ability to access a vast amount of data about their patient (their medical problems, their personal data and their prescriptions), as well as an extensive amount of medical findings and options, gives them the opportunity to prescribe new medicines. The adoption of information technology has been proven to reduce operational costs and overhead expenses. The benefits of using information technology have been proven, but the adoption level remains slow. According to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2009 over 80% of health practitioners lacked an adequate IT infrastructure for their services. This trend is highest in rural areas and with independent practitioners. In 2010 the health information technology department reported several reasons behind the slow adoption rate, including: A lack of adequate knowledge to take full advantage of the latest technology A low number of IT service providers in the healthcare industry The substantial number of healthcare players unwilling to take the initiative to introduce new technology in their organizations

8 8 Need for Advanced Health Information Technology In today s world quality healthcare services are not just important they are valued. An individual wants to visit a healthcare organization that offers the best services. During a visit to a hospital or a healthcare center, patients will most likely interact with several different healthcare employees, including: a physician, nurse, laboratory expert and medical technician. Each employee plays a different, yet crucial, role in the provision of healthcare services. Because of this, the various members of the medical team need to be able to communicate with each other so that they can provide the best medical care to the patient. The overall success of their service requires proper management and efficient sharing of information. Without the necessary health information technology the patient may be forced to try and answer the queries of each medical care member. If the patient is not in a position to do so accurately their words may result in miscommunication and, in the end, it may affect the quality of treatment. The key to smooth operations of a healthcare organization is error free communication between various parties. While in a hospital, a patient needs to interact with doctors, nurses, administrative staff, diagnostic staff, pharmacists and others. Information about a patient should be passed correctly from one party to another and this is made possible through the use of information technology. A physician, after diagnosing the problem, may recommend some physiotherapy exercises or special type of diet for the patient, and those orders need to be communicated to the physiotherapist and the nursing staff. Similarly, a pharmacist needs to be certain about the doctor s prescription. A healthcare services provider could face a lawsuit in the case of wrong diagnosis or treatment. Integrating information technology will help ensure a smooth running medical organization as they will have access to real time information as well as the ability to effectively communicate patient data as an entire healthcare team. The most common type of information technology system used in the healthcare industry today is the Electronic Medical Records or EMR.

9 9 Electronic Medical Records As the name suggests, Electronic Medical Record, or EMR, is an electronic system that stores and maintains each patient s medical records. This system allocates a unique number or ID to every patient, and all of his or her information is recorded under that ID. EMRs hold patient s medical test reports and other crucial medical information, such as symptoms, medications and allergies. The EMR also displays the type, as well as the duration, of treatments given to a patient. EMRs help ensure that everything about a particular patient can be found in one place. This makes the intricate process of diagnosing and treating the patient easier and more efficient. Even the billing process is fast and error proof because of their access to such detailed information. People often use the terms EMRs and EHRs (Electronic Health Records) interchangeably. However, they are two different types of records, and it s important to understand their differences. The EMR, as mentioned above, refers to the creation and management of a patient s record. All of the patient s specifics, including their personal information, symptoms, diagnosed problem, treatment, reports of tests conducted and drugs or medicines given are available to the internal administration of the healthcare agency or provider. Moreover, this database is prepared by the health care agency and remains its sole property. A patient s EMR cannot be shared with any other external agency unless approval is given. An EHR, on the other hand, is owned by the patient and is made up of information about his or her personal data, medical history and treatments received. This information can be shared, as the EHR moves with the patient and can be shared between various healthcare service providers for improved service delivery.

10 10 Benefits of Using EMRs EMRs have emerged as an efficient and effective method of storing critical information about patients. The effectiveness of any health care organization is dependent upon its ability to access information, as well as share that information with various members in an accurate and timely fashion. EMRs have several valuable benefits when compared with the traditionally used paper records, including: Access to real time information about a patient medical history, previous treatments and other health parameters allow healthcare providers to diagnose and treat a problem accurately. The quality of services provided is higher using EMRs as no time is wasted on searching for critical information. Convenient access to healthcare records and medical history allows a patient to be fully conversant with his or her problems and thus take the necessary care and precautions that are essential for preventing the aggravation of problems such as diabetes, blood pressure, heart problems or cancer, after being discharged from the hospital or health center. Any type of inconsistency in treatment or inaccurate diagnosis of an ailment can be easily noticed and fixed with the use of EMRs. This ability acts as a check for the health center and provides a greater assurance to the patient about the type of services he or she will get. The EMRs also contain information about the prescribed drugs and their purchases. This information is useful and valuable in case of drug recalls or identification of the drug batches. Patients EMRs can be used to study and analyze similar medical ailments, symptoms and the treatment s rate of success. The data stored in EMRs is ideal for finding the best, and newest, drug and treatment options. This consolidated database is also useful for studying various patients recovery patterns. The data stored in EMRs can be used as a resource to make necessary changes or modifications in the working of a healthcare organization. The installation of automated technology, such as EMRs, reduces the degree of human effort needed in maintaining patient records. This in turn

11 11 reduces the opportunities for error, and enhances the efficiency of the organization. Factors Constraining the Adoption of EMRs in Healthcare According to the 2009 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only 6.9% of the physicians surveyed use a comprehensive Electronic Medical Records mechanism. Moreover, the majority of those surveyed only use EMRs for drug purchases and in communicating with clients regarding their claims. So, what is keeping hospitals and health centers from adopting EMRs or other integrated informational technology systems? There are several reasons, including: Experts believe that the internal structure of healthcare organizations is hindering the adoption of information technology systems. More specifically, organizations are afraid of trading out the existing system, which they re comfortable with, with new, unfamiliar, technology. Another deterrent is the huge cost involved in setting up such IT systems. Apart from the money, adopting the technology requires an ample amount of time and effort to implement it and even more time to ensure that it s functioning smoothly with the existing infrastructure. Smaller players do not have the economic advantages of their bigger counterparts. Consequently, they find the expenditure for adopting IT systems too high and prefer to operate in the traditional manner. Another factor restricting the adoption of IT systems is the lack of technology for small- scale operators. Most of the IT infrastructure that is available for the healthcare industry caters to the requirements of large organizations. Moreover, since the size of these health centers and their medical teams are small, they are unlikely to reap the full benefits of adopting EMRs. The scope for information exchange and data aggregation is lower. Another interesting factor is that the healthcare industry in small towns and rural areas is often dominated by a few players who are reluctant to adopt systems that offer customers or patients more flexibility in choosing a hospital or a health center.

12 12 In addition to the internal obstacles listed above, there are other factors playing a role in the slow adoption rate of EMRs. For example: At present, EMR systems require frequent updates and maintenance. Most medical practitioners are not willing to update patient records at every visit and believe this to be an added task that has limited utility. They would rather a dedicated staff member do this job. Many people believe that the sharing of patient information is a breach of privacy and that easy accessibility to patient information by multiple parties raises the risk of its misuse and possible harm to the patient or the organization concerned. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) impose strict regulations on the use of and access of patient records and information. Adherence to these rules adds to the cost of implementing new IT systems. The efficiency of an EMR system is dependent on the clinical side as well as the support frameworks embedded inside. While some systems are only useful for storing basic information about a patient, others provide storage for detailed information about potential illnesses pertaining to the patients symptoms. Since the latter type of EMRs are more expensive, hospitals and other healthcare providers opt for simpler versions, which restrict the benefits that can be derived from the adoption of IT systems. The successful functioning of IT systems requires constant configurations and upgrades to match the latest offerings and applications in the market. The healthcare industry has lagged on this front and failed to make their systems compatible with the latest technology. There is also a significant need for the development of innovative applications so that existing systems can be more easily integrated with new ones. The full benefits of EHRs or EMRs will only be derived if all the players adopt this technology. If some health centers don t adopt the technology it will lead to an informational gap in a patients EMR or EHR.

13 13 The restrictive factors above are not an exhaustive list of impediments facing the adoption of information technology. Competition between various IT service providers has also led to the development of, and promotion of, individual systems with a diverse amount of technologies. In turn, this had led to non- standardized systems. The best way to resolve this problem is to integrate the technology solutions offered by various players into one consolidated offering that can be used by both small and large health providers. This will not only boost the adoption rate, but also facilitate a quicker exchange and use of information. A final factor that could encourage an increase the IT adoption rate is the development of a centralized patient centric interface that could make recording every interaction between the patient and members of medical care team easy. The creation of a real- time database will not only enhance the service quality of the health care organization but it will also allow them to interact with the other players in the industry. Information technology will benefit the healthcare industry in numerous ways, but until the decision makers are willing to invest more time, money and training into their medical infrastructure and staff the US s slow adoption rate of EMRs, as well as other beneficial technology, will continue to exist.

14 14 Contact Information Company Name: WiredFox Technologies Website: wiredfoxtechnologies.com Author: Jeff Yelton Linked- In:

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