Health information technology refers to the exchange of electronic health information. Most typically, this involves the movement of electronic health records as they make their way between healthcare providers. Improving health information technology begins with improving the ways in which this information is exchanged. Electronic medical records often house incredibly sensitive information, however, so many of the rules surrounding the exchange of these records privilege privacy over convenience. Physicians often struggle to locate important pieces of a patient’s medical history due to the services having been provided at a long-defunct hospital or even simply a distant one.
Patient employment is one of the main reasons behind strict regulations for electronic health records. In many instances, it is illegal for employers to discriminate based on pre-existing conditions, many of which are documented in a patient’s medical history. Consequently, legislation governs how far back an employer may look in a patient’s medical history in order to estimate future expenses to the company’s health insurance plan. Ideally, such legislation prevents employers from weeding out employees with medical problems who might otherwise be excellent candidates.
As simple as it might seem, patients themselves can go a long way toward improving health information technology, due to electronic health record information being so patient-centered. Giving your physician permission to search for pieces of your medical history can mean the difference between a misdiagnosis and an effective course of treatment. Patients are advised to be forthcoming regardless of whether they can see the reasoning behind a doctor’s line of questioning. Withholding important information or intentionally misleading a physician can have disastrous implications for your long-term health. Even if the truth is embarrassing, give your doctors all the information they are requesting in order to minimize recovery time.
On a more technical level, hospitals are constantly testing new health information technology systems, including automated prescription software for hospital pharmacies. Preference is given to efficiency, given that the amount of information incoming hospital employees must process obligates many hospitals to maintain long worker shifts. Longer shifts lead can lead to fatigue among hospital staff, so a hospital’s networking system must be able to help reduce physician and staff error. Generally, this is most noticeable in hospital pharmacies, where networking software can spot potential harmful drug interactions before they can harm patients. This software also allows patients to see how the drugs they are taking may change their quality of life. They can then weigh potential side effects against the possibility of recovery and proceed into a course of treatment with their physician’s permission.