What are the Benefits of Investing in Healthcare IT?

Like many other industries, healthcare has also greatly benefited from technology, especially information technology. Healthcare IT has revolutionised the way that healthcare professionals and patients collect, manage, review and share data and information. By going digital and making use of electronic systems, medical information has effectively been democratised, eliminating red tape and providing all members of a healthcare team equal access to vital patient data. Healthcare IT has also improved the efficiency of our existing healthcare systems, allowing providers to attend to their patients’ needs more quickly. 

From patients to health insurance providers, to health professionals and medical institutions, almost every aspect of our healthcare system has been fundamentally changed and improved by healthcare IT. Below are some of the benefits of investing in it:

Brings Your Health Records into the 21st Century

Electronic Health Records or EHRs have been and continue to be a significant game changer in the world of healthcare. Patient data can now be kept in a centralised database and accessed by members of a healthcare team with just a few clicks. Digital records take up much less space than their traditional, outdated paper counterparts. They are also easier to index, search, and add to as a patient progresses through various stages of treatment. Submitting patient records for billing or insurance purposes is much simpler with Electronic Health Records, too. 

Digitalising health records minimises guesswork and errors while helping a healthcare team collaborate better. Nurses and nursing assistants will be able to follow physician orders more efficiently, diagnostic tests can be ordered with a few clicks, and pharmacists will never have to struggle to read the illegible handwriting of a colleague again.

Additionally, digital records can always be kept safe. Environmental disasters such as fire or flooding will not affect a physician’s or institution’s electronic records of their patients, as long as they follow the 3-2-1 backup rule of data storage: there should always be at least 3 copies of the data, stored on 2 different types of storage media, with 1 copy always located offsite. Going paperless is also, by far, the more secure and more environmentally friendly option to the alternative.

Improved Patient Care

A centralised database of patient information means that any patient can be treated by any medical facility that has access to it. Any allergies, co-morbidities, and pre-existing conditions that an individual may have can instantly be relayed to the physician who is treating him, even if they are unfamiliar with his history. Electronic health records can be extremely useful for doctors treating non-local patients, and they can spell the meaning between life and death for patients that are unconscious or unresponsive. 

Creates a More Efficient Healthcare Workflow

With electronic health records, everything is faster. Obviously, entering data into a computer will be much less time-consuming than using pen and paper. Physicians can more quickly order diagnostic tests, create prescriptions, and detail their daily orders. Laboratory clinicians can receive results much faster as well. Institutions that make use of digital systems are also able to fully audit a patient’s records in half the time it takes to do so manually. Electronic health records also greatly simplify matters on the medical billing and coding side. 

Encourages Patient Participation

There are several pieces of legislation in the UK that give patients the right to see any medical report relating or pertaining to them. These include the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 and the Access to Health Records Act 1990. 

Democratising access to their medical records allows patients to have a direct hand in how they are treated and cared for. They can identify errors, supply missing information, and make corrections and additions as necessary. It can also help them keep better track of any treatments and procedures that have been administered to them so far. This makes for more informed, more involved patients and a more collaborative health and treatment environment.  

Lowered Costs and Malpractice Claims

Inefficient processes in any industry are sinkholes for money. Healthcare IT was created specifically to address some of the healthcare system’s most common inefficiencies. For example, an electronic system can help a hospital keep track of its employees and schedule, making sure that the facility is adequately staffed at all times—but not overstaffed. Going digital with hospital inventory can help institutions review their spending and cut down on costs. 

Using electronic health records can also lower the incidence of malpractice claims. When patients have access to their medical records and can modify them as needed, fewer diagnostic errors are made. Abnormal test results can be quickly followed up, and clinical guidelines can be followed more strictly. 

While medical institutions and professionals have taken enthusiastically to healthcare IT, many hospitals have been slow to adopt these new technologies. According to a 2019 report, only 1 in every 10 NHS trusts have fully digitised, despite the government’s much-publicised push towards a paperless NHS this year. These plans may not be realised in 2020, but healthcare-related businesses can help lead the charge by choosing to go digital today.

Brad Fleischman