Using IT in health care for better patient experiences

If you’ve had a serious medical issue, you’ve likely been referred to a specialist, even while you continue to see your primary care physician. Depending on your health, you might be seeing many doctors at a time. How does using IT in health care affect your experience?

In this day and age, when some trivial observation you make on Facebook reaches your siblings, your parents, your in-laws, your classmates from high school, friends of friends from college and acquaintances you’ve made who knows where, you might be forgiven for thinking that your health information would be shared among your doctors, who record notes in your electronic health record (EHR) on their tablets during visits.

In fact, your health information isn’t shared nearly as much as you’d think.

The Privacy Law and flow of health information

Partly, this lack of communication can be required through laws like the Privacy Law, a federal law that directs what individuals are allowed access to patient health information. Also, though, the health information ball can be dropped because electronic innovation hasn’t yet gotten health care professionals to the point where health information can flow without a hitch. Where the sharing of health information does not occur smoothly, things like a patient’s history with opioids can be missed, and abuse of the medication can horrifically impact patients’ lives. Health care administrators recognize this issue, and many are working to solve it.

“Health IT is a tool to assist our providers in delivering safe, effective healthcare to our patients,” said Denise Webb, CIO of Marshfield (Wis.) Clinic Health System and CEO of Marshfield Clinic Information Systems. “What is really important at the end of the day as a healthcare CIO is making a positive impact on the lives of the patients and communities your health system or organization serves.”

Benefits of EHRs

When one of your doctors is privy to your visits with your other doctors, they’ll have a full picture of your health. This can help them more accurately diagnose your illnesses and head off the likelihood of substance abuse by seeing what medications other physicians have already prescribed for you. Currently, making sure one doctor knows what medications another doctor has you taking can be a full-time job for patients, and at times it is a job that patients are unable to perform.

Aside from making a difference to individual patients, shared EHRs can also help researchers create better patient outcomes for all patients. To date, predicting adverse outcomes based on risk factors in patients has been difficult, mainly due to the difficulty inherent in analyzing health care data. Free-form physician notes and X-ray images don’t fit well into traditional models for analysis.

IT in health careAnd yet, researchers are continually drawn to EHRs because they are so rich in data. If Google and its partners hit pay dirt with their research into machine learning applied to EHRs, it’s likely that researchers can identify the patient risk factors that drive future medical events and, once identified, educate health care professionals to look for and act on those risk factors in their patients.

How are EHRs relevant to PolicyStat?

Electronic health records are one example of how information technology is changing the health care field in a positive way for patients. As a whole, the industry is trending more toward using IT to provide better patient results. While policy management software is different from electronic health records, the software offers one more way to provide a better patient experience.

How is your organization using EHRs? Tell us on our Facebook page.

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