Health Information Technology Has Revolutionized the Way We Treat Patients
When 45-year-old Rajat Gupta was diagnosed with a tumor in his brain at a hospital in Jodhpur, he was told he urgently needed surgical intervention. As the hospital he was diagnosed at lacked a neurosurgical specialist to treat the condition, the reports were quickly shared (on the common IT network) with the hospital’s tertiary care branch in Delhi, where a neurosurgeon immediately booked a time slot for surgery. The fact that the hospital chain had a common shared network on which digital reports could easily be sent back and forth made Rajat’s treatment very quick and convenient. Having undergone a successful surgery at Delhi, he is thankful for the technological progress that information technology has brought to health sector. Even 20 years back this would have been unthinkable.
Adoption of information technology has revolutionized the functioning of most sectors over the past few years. Healthcare sector has been one of them. Not only has it made diagnostics, sharing and storing of information much easier and paperless, it has also served to prevent medical errors, and improve health outcomes.
Minimizes risk of errors
Keeping electronic records of patient history, treatment, diagnosis and progress on recovery not only makes it convenient but also serves to minimizes risk of errors. Human errors, which are very much possible in highly busy hospital settings, can sometimes cause serious medical problems. With the keeping of electronic records that can be accessed any time by doctors, this risk is curtailed and minimized.
Electronic health records help in maintaining legible and complete documentation of patients’ medical history so that it is much easier to keep a track on listed allergic conditions, previous history of diseases, treatments, and drugs used. All this provides a robust support to clinical practitioners to arrive at better medical decisions.
Paperless is convenient
The fact that the records are safe in the hospital IT network is also a bulwark against loss of papers or files. Imagine a scenario in which you have to see a doctor with a report whose hard copy you have somehow forgotten to carry. With the reports safe in the servers, you can quickly get another copy without the hassle of rushing back home.
Some patients such as those with type 1 diabetes need to keep detailed records and logs of their sugar levels and insulin intake. Keeping electronic records are much more convenient than maintaining years of history on paper. This can also be easily shared with doctors.
Saves Time and Space; Improves efficiency
Using electronic health records allows lab technicians to receive laboratory results faster. Cumulatively this saves a lot more time and allows labs to serve more patients more efficiently. Today, use of information technology also allows labs to share reports with patients in much less time electronically. Some hospitals have used technology to make mobile testing available to distant and deprived populations. A mobile van can travel to distant areas where samples or scans can be taken and shared with the central laboratory back at the hospital. The latter can then share their results for dispensation with the mobile van, without the need for patients to visit the hospital.
Faster Turnaround Time
Using healthcare IT systems helps medical facilities to perform their job faster, and saves a lot of time both on the fronts of professionals and patients. Having electronic records also allows faster, sound and hassle free audit procedures.
Aids Medical Research
Keeping of electronic medical records can also allow hospitals and medical practitioners to procure data for research and survey purposes. For example, if an endocrinologist wants to conduct a survey on the incidence of thyroid dysfunction among pregnant women in a city, he/she can easily access records of the gynecology and obstetrics departments of multiple hospitals for patients treated over a year. The accumulated data can provide valuable information that can help understand the incidence of disease in a city or locality. This can even help policy makers make conscious policy decisions to address the health concern in the population. Incidentally, lack of comprehensive medical data about major diseases, their causes and incidence has been a major concern in India. Effective electronic information systems can drastically change the scene of medical research in India.
This is another rapidly emerging field that can benefit from electronic systems. Lack of medical care in rural and remote areas is a concern that has oft been highlighted in India. With effective use of telemedicine, this can be addressed. Setting up telemedicine centres in rural areas can help hospitals provide medical care and consultation to residents. While day to day diseases and health problems can be addressed from a distance, patients needing more specialized care can be asked to travel to the hospital. This saves time, energy and resources both on the part of patients as well as hospitals.