Healthcare IT

Healthcare information technology (also known as healthcare IT or health IT) is a broad set of technologies, including computer software, hardware, and infrastructure, used to collect, store, exchange, or manage health information, including administrative, clinical, and financial information. Jump to resource links -->

What is the Role of IT in Healthcare?

Since the passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009, which promotes the meaningful use of healthcare IT, providers and organizations across the U.S. have migrated from traditional, paper-based patient charts and record-keeping to digitized versions. This shift has driven the widespread adoption of healthcare IT by physicians, nurses, patients, health administrators, pharmacists, insurance companies, government entities, and more.

Healthcare information technology includes the software and other technology used to collect, store, analyze, and share health information, so it plays a prominent role in nearly every facet of healthcare delivery and administration today.

Examples of Healthcare Information Technology

Healthcare information technology encompasses myriad software solutions and technology tools, including:

  • Electronic Health Records (EHRs) – The cornerstone of health IT, EHRs are digitized records of a patient’s complete health history and treatments that can be shared among organizations and providers.
  • Personal Health Records (PHRs) – A health record maintained by the patient.
  • Health Information Exchange (HIE) – A data clearinghouse for a group of organizations that agree to share healthcare data among their systems and enter into an interoperability agreement.
  • Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) – Systems for storing and managing medical images.
  • Vendor-Neutral Archives (VNAs) – Systems typically used in multi-facility healthcare systems to merge data from disparate image banks (such as image banks from different departments) into a single repository.
  • Patient Portals – While not a new technology, patient portals have evolved from simple websites allowing patients to view upcoming appointments and lab results to include messaging services to communicate with providers, view and pay bills, order prescription refills, and download their medical records.
  • Practice Management Software – Software for healthcare providers to manage scheduling, billing, and other administrative functions.
  • Master Patient Index (MPI) – A central index to connect and centralize records for patients across databases and organizations.
  • Clinical Decision Support (CDS) – Analytics solutions for analyzing data from clinical and administrative systems to aid providers in making data-driven healthcare decisions.

Benefits of Healthcare IT

Healthcare IT is transforming the way providers deliver healthcare, improving the accuracy and organization of healthcare information across applications and organizations to streamline providers’ workflows and improve the safety and quality of healthcare. By giving clinicians access to more comprehensive health information, healthcare information technology helps to reduce the duplication of tests and procedures, saving patients money, while also providing clinicians with information that can improve safety, such as by avoiding potential drug interactions.

Patient-facing healthcare information technology, such as patient portals, allows patients to access their health records, providing greater transparency and empowering patients to take greater control over their health care needs.

Healthcare IT also improves collaboration among providers by supporting the efficient and cost-effective exchange of patient health information. With solutions that enable the collection and analysis of healthcare information from disparate systems, healthcare information technology supports robust healthcare data analysis to inform population health management and reduce healthcare costs.