Information Technologies and Health

Health information technologies take various forms, including:

electronic health records;

personal health records;

e-mail communication;

clinical alerts and reminders ;

computerized decision support systems;

hand-held devices;

any technology that store, protect, retrieve and transfer clinical, administrative, and financial information electronically within health care settings ( ).

The benefits of health IT

Expectations towards health IT are great:

Improved monitoring of chronically ill patients;

Continuity in patient treatment with the help of electronic patient files;

Improved home care due to more user friendly and portable devices;

Less visits to the doctor’s office or to the emergency room;

Reduction of medical errors.

What is at stake?

But they also raise several concerns such as:

Confidentiality since health organisations have to ensure that electronic health records remain totally confidential;

Responsibility and empowerment since patients are given more responsibilities in the management of their diseases;

Training and education of health professionals who are now required to master computer skills;

Changes in the work organisation in hospitals and other facilities to support the use of certain health IT;

Interoperability of health IT systems . Interoperability means information systems of two hospitals for example will be have to be able to « talk » to each other and exchange information ;

Data legibility since data stored now will have to be legible by new softwares in a few years time ;

Increased Data storage space to accommodate technologies such MRI, CT Scan, electronic patient files etc.;

Obsolescence of devices and systems since the short life span of health IT may imply frequent replacement and consequently an additional economic burden on the health care system;

The usability of health IT for people with specific disabilities, elderly or people with low level of literacy may be questioned ;

Adoption of health IT by health professionals, if slow, may put an additional burden on the healthcare system.

Our dossier this month, examines two different health IT: the Intelligent Distance Patient Monitoring and the computerized respiratory assistance device. It also explores the socioeconomics issues around telemedicine and two telemedicine homecare systems for patients with chronic illnesses.

Author :Stéphanie Tailliez, Ph.D.

7101, avenue du Parc 

H3N 1X9, Montréal

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