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Health Informatics Definition and Theories, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1103

Essay

Introduction

Health informatics (HI) is an interdisciplinary area that makes it possible for medical professionals to handle large amount of data safely. The author would like to use Kirshner’s (n.d.) definition to explain health informatics: “the rapidly developing scientific field that utilizes computer technology in the advancement of medicine”.  According to Dalrymple (2011), in health care informatics technology, there is a close relationship among information, data, and knowledge. Savel & Foldy (2012) emphasize that Health Informatics are not synonymous with Health Information Systems. The authors confirm the definition of HIT as the delivery structure and infrastructure of health informatics, signifying that “trained public health informaticians should be able to support public health decisions by facilitating the availability of timely, relevant, and high-quality information” (Savel &Foldy, 2012, p. 20). Therefore, health care professionals can utilize systems to gain relevant information from large set of data that would improve patient outcomes on a national or organizational level, while HIT professionals also perform IT and computer operations. The author of the current study would like to examine how the interdisciplinary nature of health information technologies (HITs) improves communication among different disciplinary areas; researchers, primary care professionals, and policymakers. The main thesis that the author is attempting to investigate is that increased collaboration through information systems has a positive impact on evidence-based practice implementation.

Methodology

The author of the current review searched recent scholarly journal articles to reveal the application of HI and HIT and the developments that currently take place in education, technology, and policy-making. This research was carried out in order to reveal the potential benefits of using HIT in different areas of health care.

Application of HI and HIT

According to Bloomrosen & Detmer (2010), the rapid development of biomedical and health care informatics can positively impact knowledge and evidence creation, making hospitals and other care facilities more effective. Health informatics are today a part of nursing education college curriculum, and all university courses involve computer-based research training. Bloomrosen & Detmer (2010) states that most educators focus on teaching students the multidisciplinary application of computer based health systems. As a minimum, most graduates have an extensive knowledge about patient administration systems, databases, and research information networks.

Dalrymple (2011) states that informatics is generally used in conjunction with a specific domain such as health or biomedicine – or to other fields such as law, resulting in terms such as health informatics, biomedical informatics or legal informatics. However, there is one common feature of all health informatics technologies:  the relationship between data, information, and knowledge as follows: data is necessary to retrieve relevant information, which will in turn create knowledge for users, increasing the proficiency of all health care professionals. This indicates that HI is an effective tool for implementing changes that improve patient outcomes and service performance.

Reviewing the current use of information technology in heath care (HIT),  the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform (2010) found that all applications of technology-enabled systems for knowledge sharing and retrieving patient information can improve the effectiveness of public health services delivery. The authors of the brief state that “the electronic collection and exchange of standardized outcome, utilization, demographic, diagnostic, quality, and cost information”(Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform, 2010, p. 1) are important features of current reforms to make the U.S. health service more cost-effective, and beneficial for patients. The main uses of HI and HIT listed by the authors are quality performance and measurement on the national, regional, and unit level, evidence development to support evidence-based practices, and public health surveillance. Some relevant uses of health care systems can be monitoring epidemics in a given geographic area, by integrating data from different hospitals and medical centers’ reports and spotting trends in time to develop an intervention plan. Evidence-based practice can also be supported by computerizing anonymous patient data in order to determine which treatments are the most effective for different populations suffering from one particular illness.

Bloomrosen & Detmer (2010) highlights the importance of central databases and agencies providing reliable data for policymakers and practitioners. One agency mentioned is the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality that provides reliable research data for creating evidence reports that support health care providers develop more effective intervention programs and treatments to improve patient outcomes.

The future of health informatics, according to the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform (2010) lies in the enhanced use of data and information retrieved. The authors confirm that health exchange systems can not only be used for retrieving statistical information, but can later also be used as knowledge management and collaboration systems. The brief mentions some examples when applications were used effectively and resulted in evidence-based process improvements in health care facilities. As an example, in North Carolina practice-level data was submitted and monitored in order to develop new intervention and treatment options for diabetes and asthma sufferers. As a result, admission rates were reduced significantly, as well as emergency room visits. This resulted in cost saving, more effective services, and increased patient satisfaction. Collaboration between researchers and practitioners can also be beneficial, as researchers can gain access to centralized health data to work with, and they can publish their findings on various portals, making recommendations for primary care staff.

Conclusion

The greatest opportunity of HI and HIT does not lie in technology and fast retrieval of data, but also its collaborative applications. As HITs are able to connect different disciplines, they can act as a medium of discussion and knowledge sharing among researchers, policymakers, and health care professionals, so they can work together on creating evidence-based practice interventions that will reduce the cost associated with caring for patients, improve the quality of care, better patient outcomes, and finally transform the U.S. health system into an evidence-based practice network. Providing training for newly qualified nurses, however, is not enough, and health care facilities should focus on providing computer literacy skills for all employees to enable them to share and retrieve knowledge.

References

Bloomrosen, M. & Detmer, D. (2010) Informatics, evidence-based care, and research; implications for national policy: a report of an American Medical Informatics Association health policy conference. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association : JAMIA, 17(2), 115–123. doi:10.1136/jamia.2009.001370

Dalrymple, P. (2011) Data, information, knowledge: The emerging field of health informatics. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. June-July 2011.

Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform (2010) Using Information Technology to Support Better Health Care: One Infrastructure with Many Uses. Retrieved from            http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/events/2010/5/14%20health%20information/final%20issue%20brief%2051310.pdf

Kirshner, M. (n.d.) What is the difference between Health Informatics and Health Information  Management? Retrieved from www.oit.edu/healthinformatics

Savel, T. & Foldy, S. (2012) The role of public health informatics in enhancing public health surveillance. CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Supplements. 2012/61 (03); 20-24

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