Informatics and Health Care

By Dr Cheryl Anderson

health informaticsInformation technology impacts all areas of health care. The use of information technology in health care is called informatics. The focus of informatics is on information management, not computers. The drive for informatics competency is actually driven by law as much as driven by demand and innovation.

Currently, the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) was created to encourage and support greater use of informatics. The responsibilities of PITAC are part of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Informatics took root with the advent of electronic health records.

Federal efforts behind a push to move all health care organizations to electronic medical records include the efforts of PITAC along with other efforts to standardize the data that is collected. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has written several influential papers noting the need for IT and informatics as one of the important forces that will improve health care in the next decade. Some of the informatics themes include a national information infrastructure, computerized clinical data, the use of the internet by providers and consumers, clinical decision support, and evidence
based practice integration.

Health care is considered an information intensive industry. The management of subjective and objective data has been a challenge for all health care organizations. Poorly managed data, missing data, and lost data has resulted in inefficiencies and likely poor patient care. Thus, pulling information together in seamless, electronic methods makes perfect sense.

Other driving forces behind informatics include patient safety concerns. Currently, there are at least ten different patient safety databases using aggregated health care data. Vaccine registries, surveillance and infection control programs are examples of these types of data bases. On the provider side, computerized provide order entry (CPOE) is considered one of the most noted moves toward patient safety for medication dispensing. Most physician offices and hospitals have now moved to some type of CPOE method to reduce transcription errors and dispensing mistakes.

Health care costs are also a driving force behind informatics. Well designed systems are believed to be able to reduce health care costs, increase efficiencies, and move toward more evidence based care for all patients. The field of informatics is likely in its infancy. While most clinicians are using various types of informatics in care of patients, health care administrators have also been swept into the business side of informatics.

Health care administrators use financial data bases, reporting databases, along with many different types of common computer applications such as Word, Access, and Excel. Health care administrators should anticipate more and different types of informatics processes for both the clinical side of their organization along with the business side. Current health care management students should consider all of the various ways that informatics has impacted and will impact health care in the future. Savvy people will continue to recognize the many opportunities available with the
integration of information technology and all facets of health care.