HIT: Fuelling decisions, saving lives!

“INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY is a pivotal part of transforming our healthcare system. We are at a critical juncture. Working in close collaboration, the government and private sector can drive changes that will lead to fewer medical errors, lower costs, less hassle and better care” – Mike Leavitt.

The deliverance of healthcare is changing globally. Policymakers, healthcare providers, supporting industries, and payers all are playing a significant function in the revolution of healthcare from the existing reactive mold to one that is personalized, predictive, preventive, and participatory. The union of systems loom to sickness, biomedical technology, imaging technology, and health information technology tools are building a learning healthcare system that applies healthy evidence-based medicine to manage optimal healthcare. An improved capability to recognize symptoms and risk factors, together with larger data capacity, has given a greater insight into the nature of many diseases.

These advances also present the tools to better predict disease progression, especially in certain populations – an opportunity that has many implications for patient management. Promoting health, treating illness, and integrating healthcare activities are all information driven ventures. All these procedures that involve in the collection and analysis of data, combined with a decision-making process attached with scientific evidence. Whether it is a doctor assessing somebody with the flu, a public health professional planning a disease prevention program, or a health planner is in search of techniques to improve efficiency and synchronization across service providers, the success of the endeavor lies in the capability of health system decision makers to have access to swiftly collected, collated, and interpreted data in order to make logical decisions about a course of action. It is also significant to declare that accuracy, collaboration and speed are the soul when it comes to preventing the spread of disease, or delivering effective life-saving health services.

It is no surprise that technology enable approaches that noticeably improve the capability to observe, diagnose, treat and monitor have been excitedly griped by the health community. Such approaches, be it the visual power of a multi-slice CT scan or the ability to identify individual cases with a certain health situation in an epidemiological data set, are changing the face of health and healthcare across the globe. In the consequence, there is a need for a new core member of health team who has the comprehensive knowledge of health information technology.

Health Information Technology (HIT) is swiftly raising area of health sciences where health sciences and information technology converge to support and improve the position of individual and community health. Health information technology is spreading globally and thus promoting health and prosperity for humans. Simplest definition of HIT is Computer Application in Health System whereas; the HIT consists of set of technologies with a great diversion for transmitting and managing healthcare data for all stakeholders use. HIT means the utilization of computer in the form of physician digital assistance, electronic health records, computerized physician order entry system by doctors, patients, hospitals, laboratories and all other health workers.

Health information technology is extremely imperative component of frequently changing environment of healthcare system. With the use of HIT health related information can be communicated well and can be used in evidence based decision making process. Benefits of HIT include reduce paper work in hospital/healthcare environment which result in reducing medical errors, decrease need for repeating medical tests which effects in reducing healthcare cost. Evidence based practice play a key role in efficient health information system quality, outcome and efficiency of health. Healthcare can be improved by having timely and accurate information for evidence based decision at all levels.

The need for education in health information technology is acknowledged by most countries that are involved in the introduction of technology in healthcare. A number of developing countries have recently undertaken structural reform to the healthcare information and delivery system. An important component of this reform is the establishment of reliable, timely and effective information systems. Since health information and information management is not widely recognized in Pakistan and this area has not been given the due attention among the health profession therefore, it is crucial that HIT be considered a science and be promoted through education and training and introduction of health information technology in the healthcare and medical education is of prime importance. The following points to develop the health information systems for the government (ministry of health, education and IT) are recommended.

1. Government should build master plans for introduction and implementation of health information technology in healthcare institutions. Plans should cover the framework defining needs of users, software development policies and standards, phases of implementation, resources requirement and governance and structure;

2. Awareness campaigns should be conducted to sensitize healthcare professionals on the importance of HIT and their specific roles in its adaptation;

3. Financial and human resources ought to be allocated at the national and district levels to support execution of HIT plans;

4. Should develop management information systems for both administration of the healthcare sector and for the management of the technical programmes;

5. Must develop a model of HIT curriculum for medical colleges in the country and the course must be introduced during the early years of medical education;

6. And, should invest in human resources development in the Information Technology area.

The writer is associated with the Institute of Horticultural Sciences, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.

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