We help companies capture the value of healthcare IT systems and solutions that can improve the performance and efficiency of key business functions. These solutions include the adoption of digital health tools, such as mobile apps, that can change the delivery and management of health care.
Health IT Terms
Today, your doctor likely keeps a paper record (sometimes called a “chart”) of your information in his or her office. If you’re hospitalized, your hospital also keeps a chart. An electronic health record (EHR) is, at its simplest, a digital version of those paper charts.
Digitizing a paper chart has several advantages, including allowing your doctor to easily learn if you are due for preventive screenings or checkups, and keep up to date about your health and health insurance.
Ideally, your doctor’s EHR can link to a hospital, lab, pharmacy, or other doctors, so the people who care for you can have a more complete picture of your health.
Today, a small but growing number of doctors and hospitals use EHRs—and more are converting to these systems every day. EHRs are growing in popularity in the health care industry, in part because they can be safer and easier to use than paper, and in part because the Federal government is giving doctors and hospitals incentives to use them to improve care.
Health information exchange (HIE) is the movement of health information electronically across multiple organizations. Exchanging health information is important in order to make sure that your health care providers have access to the most up to date information about you so they can make more informed decisions about your care. HIE can improve the coordination of care for a person who is seeing multiple providers by enabling providers to share important health information.
Interoperability is the ability of two or more systems to communicate — or exchange — information and to use the information that has been exchanged. Interoperability is NOT the same thing as health information exchange. Exchanging information is only part of the picture; once the information has been exchanged, it must be useable by the recipient. Providers using different systems may not be able to share and use information, so ONC is working to set national standards to make sure that all electronic health record systems are able to work together seamlessly. ONC is coordinating with the health IT community in an open and transparent process to develop and unify standards, guidelines and policies for interoperable health information exchange.
A personal health record (PHR) is another health IT term you may have heard already. A PHR is a lot like an EHR, except you set up and control the information yourself. You don’t have to wait for your doctor to build an electronic system into his or her practice. One of your health care or health insurance providers may already offer a PHR for you to use. You can also create a PHR through other software and online services.
Much like the EHR, the PHR can be an electronic storage center for your most important health information, such as:
- emergency contacts
- illnesses or conditions
- immunization dates
- lab and test results
Have you ever seen your doctor or someone at a hospital send an order to the pharmacy by computer? That’s electronic prescribing (e-prescribing).
With e-prescribing, your doctor enters your prescription into a computer database. The order for the medication is then sent over a network to your pharmacy, which can fill it immediately.
E-prescribing offers several advantages over today’s phone, fax, and paper methods of transmitting prescriptions.
- First, it can save time, because your pharmacist can find out if you need a prescription filled right away, rather than making you wait until after you drop off your prescription slip.
- Second, it can save you money, because a computer system may suggest an alternative or generic drug that is just as good but costs less.
- Third, it should be safer since it may be able to check whether the new drug interferes with any other medications you are on or with any allergies you may have; there is no risk that your pharmacist might misread a hastily scribbled prescription slip and give you the wrong drug. However, e-prescribing, like any other process where people are involved, is not totally foolproof.
Some larger hospitals already have e-prescribing. Many large drug store chains are getting ready to install systems or already have systems in place with this capability. E-prescribing requires that your doctor and pharmacy be linked electronically. Your doctor may not be able to do this today—but it is becoming increasingly common..
Benefits of Health ITInformation Technology in Health Care: The Next Consumer Revolution
Over the past 20 years, our nation has undergone a major transformation due to information technology (IT). Today, we have at our fingertips access to a variety of information and services to help us manage our relationships with the organizations that are part of our lives: banks, utilities, Government offices — even entertainment companies.
Until now, relatively few Americans have had the opportunity to use this kind of technology to enhance some of the most important relationships: those related to your health. Relationships with your doctors, your pharmacy, your hospital, and other organizations that make up your circle of care are now about to benefit from the next transformation in information technology: health IT.
For patients and consumers, this transformation will enhance both relationships with providers and providers’ relationships with each other. This change will place you at the center of your care – in effect, helping to put the “I” in health IT.
Although it will take years for health care to realize all these improvements and fully address any pitfalls, the first changes in this transformation are already underway. At the same time, numerous technology tools are becoming available to improve health for you, your family, and your community.
Most consumers will first encounter the benefits of health IT through an electronic health record, or EHR, at their doctor’s office or at a hospital.
Benefits of health IT for you and your family
On a basic level, an EHR provides a digitized version of the “paper chart” you often see doctors, nurses, and others using. But when an EHR is connected to all of your health care providers (and often, to you as a patient), it can offer so much more:
The clipboard and new patient questionnaire may remain a feature of your doctor’s office for some time to come. But as more information gets added to your EHR, your doctor and hospital will have more of that data available as soon as you arrive. This means fewer and shorter forms for you to complete, reducing the health care “hassle factor.”
Even if you have relatively simple health care needs, coordinating information among care providers can be a daunting task, and one that can lead to medical mistakes if done incorrectly. When all of your providers can share your health information via EHRs, each of them has access to more accurate and up-to-date information about your care. That enables your providers to make the best possible decisions, particularly in a crisis..
Suppose you see three specialists in addition to your primary care physician. Each of them may prescribe different drugs, and sometimes, these drugs may interact in harmful ways. EHRs can warn your care providers if they try to prescribe a drug that could cause that kind of interaction. An EHR may also alert one of your doctors if another doctor has already prescribed a drug that did not work out for you, saving you from the risks and costs of taking ineffective medication.
Have you ever had to repeat medical tests ordered by one doctor because the results weren’t readily available to another doctor? Those tests may have been uncomfortable and inconvenient or have posed some risk, and they also cost money. Repeating tests—whether a $20 blood test or a $2,000 MRI–results in higher costs to you in the form of bigger bills and increased insurance premiums. With EHRs, all of your care providers can have access to all your test results and records at once, reducing the potential for unnecessary repeat tests.
n the United States, you already have a Federally guaranteed right to see your health records, identify wrong and missing information, and make additions or corrections as needed. Some health care providers with EHR systems give their patients direct access to their health information online in ways that help preserve privacy and security. This access enables you to keep better track of your care, and in some cases, answer your questions immediately rather than waiting hours or days for a returned phone call. This access may also allow you to communicate directly and securely with your health care provider.