The fact that information technology is increasingly pervasive in healthcare delivery should come as no surprise to anyone. Since the advent of computers, individuals and organizations increasingly process information digitally. This has led to the study of informatics with computational, mathematical, biological, cognitive, and social aspects, including the study of the social impact of information technologies. In this article, we will discuss health informatics and six ways it’s already transforming healthcare.
What is health informatics?
Health informatics also known as healthcare informatics or medical informatics is a highly interdisciplinary field that may be defined as the systematic applications of Information Technology (IT) to healthcare delivery. It is an evolving scientific discipline that deals with the resources, devices, and methods required to optimize the collection, storage, retrieval, and communication of health-related data.
The discipline focuses on the application of information technology to the field of medicine for the purpose of problem-solving, decision making, and assuring highest quality healthcare in all basic and applied areas of the biomedical sciences.
Health informatics is distinct from bioinformatics, a related field with which it is often confused; bioinformatics is about using computational methods to analyze and understand complex intracellular biochemical mechanisms such as genetic sequences, cell populations or protein samples, to make new predictions or discover new biology. The term biomedical informatics is often used in medical schools to denote the merger of these two fields into one training and/or research program.
Benefits of health informatics
Health informatics is truly important and has played a great role in improving patient care. Here are some of the benefits of health informatics.
1. Cost reduction
Healthcare informatics has contributed immensely in reducing cost in the medical business as it has a way of minimizing medical errors which costs a lot in the business. Statistics had it that each year, about $136 billion takes over error costs in the United States. However, technologies like Computer Provider Order Entry Systems (CPOE) or Clinical Decision Support Systems (CDSS) are programmed to detect medical errors specifically in duplication, mismatches, and allergies of patients based on their data, leading to huge cost-reduction for healthcare companies.
2. Enhanced coordination
With an increase in specialization of healthcare, patients usually receive care simultaneously from different medical professionals in one hospital stay. This increase in the number of medical professionals attending to a patient may lead to a certain level of incoordination.
Health informatics makes the necessary coordination possible by allowing health professionals involved in a patient’s care to simultaneously record, disseminate, and share updates, logs, and findings. It also ensures that conversations regarding issues like blood levels, therapy, nutrition, discharge instructions, etc. are made in tandem with one another so as to avoid problems.
3. Better and more efficient storage of patient records
For a long period of time, most medical facilities used outdated methods to store patient records. Even to this day, a large number of hospitals around the world still use paper-based system of patient data storage. However, with the informatics industry booming and allowing for new electronic technology and information systems e.g., Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, the management of patients’ records is now made faster and easier. Medical professionals now find patient’s data stored in convenient coded computer systems. Also, workload is drastically reduced as searching for data using the manual processes puts extra stress on the entire personnel of a medical facility thereby hindering their ability to work efficiently throughout their shift.
4. Patient empowerment
Patients having electronic access to their own health history and recommendations are most likely to be empowered in taking care of their health. In addition to keeping track of their symptoms and medications, having access to information allows patients to be more involved in their treatment plans and stay better informed about their conditions. This systematic process also allows patients to reach out to the right healthcare professional or access expert advice in real-time when needed.
5. Improved outcomes
With manual jobs and tasks now being automated, time and money are being saved both for patients, hospitals, insurance companies, and even the government. Also, there are now improved diagnoses and lesser errors, which have led to an increase in healthcare efficiency.
6. Patient privacy
Data confidentiality and patient privacy is a very vital aspect in healthcare, therefore, using blockchain technology, medical professionals are already experimenting with new methods of data encryption. When data gets encrypted, patients and doctors wouldn’t have to worry about data breaches and compromised data, as records will now be completely safe. This particularly fosters patients’ faith in doctors and makes them eager to provide more crucial information. Out of all the benefits of health informatics, blockchain-powered privacy benefits are perhaps the closest to becoming a standard.