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Information Technology Challenges in Healthcare

The most telling measure of healthcare has always been the health of patients. But a failing system not only affects the population’s overall wellbeing and quality of life, but also burdens the economy with skyrocketing medical expenditures.

Fortunately, new technologies have the capacity to extend and replace existing clinical and administrative procedures in the medical ecosystem. Information technology is here to lend a hand and overcome many of the healthcare challenges. In particular, “e-health” improves patient safety at the point of care- it facilitates better clinical decisions, saves time for doctors, and reduces prescription-drug-related errors.

Additionally, health IT eases the process of evaluating the patient’s identity and medical history. It also optimizes the identification of the medicine and accurately pinpoints the appropriate medical personnel with every new intervention.

But technological innovation is one component of a larger picture of change, which represents a new way of working, a better attitude, and a solid commitment to collaborative thinking.

With its government-mandated need for security, massive amounts of sensitive health data and an evolving technological ecosystem, healthcare is among the sectors facing the most significant challenges in integrating Information Technology solutions.

From the uptown dentist’s office to major hospital conglomerations, the healthcare IT environment is increasingly complex and, if not managed appropriately, can negatively impact patient care. This article puts major technology challenges facing the healthcare industry under the loop.

A Huge Stream of Data - How To Store It All?

Healthcare data usage is growing out of scale, at an exponential pace. This comes from a variety of reasons. For instance, digital imaging technologies, and electronic medical records are producing high volumes of data every minute.

Furthermore, mobile apps as well as trends in telemedicine are increasing data generation and the need for its safe storage and processing.

Chances are, the data storage capacity needed for healthcare will double every 18 months, according to a report of the CSIS global health policy center . With regulators pushing to keep patient information indefinitely, current technology fails to bring an answer as how to achieve that.

On the bright side, forward-thinking medical institutes started a strategy for future implementation. Take Japan, for instance, where multi-tiered storage plans include on-site, off-site and virtual storage.

With that being said, increasing overall storage capacity also demands highly efficient software solutions for managing the massive and growing amounts of data that now exist in diverse medical environments. May be, the Blockchain answer to this through decentralized cloud services that harness all participants’ storage capacity, not just centralized databases. However, the road ahead is rather long.

Establishing Communication Among Healthcare Systems

The advent of electronic medical records is still at its infancy, and establishing a smooth interface of communication between all medical providers remains years away.

While the industry regularly rolls out innovations to improve patient care and facility operations, integrating all systems to a shared ledger for communication is a complex task.

It is this lack of ability to interface across systems that limits the ability to automate processes and to capture and use data effectively. In fact, this “communication problem” also exists in machines, and greatly decreases the return on investment for technology.

Inflating Costs of IT Projects in Healthcare

Pictures: Pixabay, Shutterstock

In these times of economic recession and disturbance of finances status quo, healthcare organizations are facing rapidly increasing IT costs for a number of reasons. This encompasses government regulations, power needs and massive man-hour expenditures.

The Strain From Regulators

In the United States, The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, obliges medical providers to safely store patients’ private medical information indefinitely. The federal law requires stringent procedures for data back-ups along with data-recovery alternatives in cases of force majeure, disasters or emergency situations.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH, corroborates HIPAA and strengthens penalties and requirements for mandatory notifications when data breaches happen. This puts even more strain on IT solutions to achieve its promise of disrupting health care.

With pressures from a growing influx of patient data, legal requirements for strict privacy and security, rapidly advancing clinical technology, increasing energy costs, and other factors, healthcare IT is in a crossroad of challenges. Achieving everyone’s goal to a better healthcare system that demands a collaborative effort from all parties involved, while optimally harnessing the promises and capabilities of Information Technologies.  

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