Health information technologies take various forms, including:
electronic health records;
personal health records;
clinical alerts and reminders ;
computerized decision support systems;
any technology that store, protect, retrieve and transfer clinical, administrative, and financial information electronically within health care settings (http://www.hrsa.gov/healthit/ ).
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.