IT systems are becoming increasingly important in the efficient management of the health care sector. In the early days of automation, Health IT systems helped with basic record management and patient administration. Today, they can form an integral part of a health care practice and provide many ongoing benefits. A good IT system provides several key benefits, including better quality of care, increased patient involvement and improved access to patient data.
Better Quality of Care
IT systems provide comprehensive software for processing data to provide valuable feedback to physicians and other medical personnel. This helps practitioners to assess patient progress over time and continue to improve efficiency. Analytical tools also enable practices to monitor how the patient experience is affected by clinical work-flow processes.
Using an electronic health record system gives physicians and practice personnel ready access to patients’ comprehensive medical histories. EHR data analysis enables practices to build an accurate picture of how issues such as particular diseases are affecting their patients. This makes it possible for health service practices to be proactive rather than reactive in managing patients, and to identify the need for preventive health screening.
Patients Can Participate in Managing Their Own Health
Many health IT systems provide integrated patient portals. These enable patients to be proactive in managing their health. They also serve to reduce the number of visits patients must make. For example, patients may be able to access lab results from home.
Research into the effectiveness of patient portals shows that patient access to a secure messaging system frees up clinical staff time. Patients tend to be more concise when emailing messages than when using a telephone to contact their provider.1 Patients respond positively to being able to pose questions without needing to visit the practice. They also value the ability to make online requests for medication, appointments and referrals.
Patient portals can help people with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension to better monitor their health. One study of 35,000 patients in southern California showed that from four to 11 percent of patients who used patient portals had improved healthcare effectiveness data and information set measures.2
Increased, Secure Access to Patient Data
An EHR makes it possible to store all patient data in a single location and for any approved health care provider to have access to that data. Many patients interact with more than one health care service. Prior to the use of an EHR, reliance on paper files slowed down response times. It often meant that clinical personnel made decisions without having access to all relevant information.
When data is stored electronically, clinical personnel are better informed about patients’ medical backgrounds, which leads to better decision making. It also relieves patients of the need to accurately recall an exhaustive list of what medications they are using, or to remember the names of health services or physicians they have dealt with in the past.
Health IT has already revolutionized the delivery of health care, and more benefits are on the horizon. As the amount of medical data increases, it will enable accurate studies of nationwide trends and demographic factors. The information will make it possible to vastly improve preventative medicine and screening programs.