Tag Archives: healthcare

Informatics and Health Care Reform

There is a lot of attention right now on health care and health care reform. The focus is on providing health care for everyone at an affordable price. There exists a lot of political wrangling over the method of achieving the goal of affordable universal health care but I would like to suggest that IT can play a big part in making health care more efficient and therefore cheaper. Specifically, health informatics can create patient record efficiencies and cost savings.

Health Informatics

Health informatics is really the storage, processing, and display of personal health records. Health informatics has grown from the old days of hand-scribed paper records to a complex electronic system of networked data. Health care itself has grown as well, from the country doctor to the point where a single patient may have multiple doctors and specialists. According to a study by the Rand Corporation, “Most chronic conditions require multiple clinicians to coordinate care, and most patients who have these conditions visit providers from many different medical groups. This creates obvious logistical challenges, such as making sure all providers are up to date on the current care plan, as well as their respective roles and responsibilities for keeping track of the patient. Additionally, patients with more than one chronic condition—who incurred roughly 93 percent of Medicare spending in 2011—require coordination among an even greater number of providers.”

This is where IT and health informatics can shine. This is our specialty. We are very good at processing, dissecting, and compiling information and making it available to everyone, everywhere.


Some of the funds for implementing and upgrading health informatics systems are available from government stimulus via The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). This legislation authorized incentive payments through Medicare and Medicaid to doctors and hospitals when they use Electronic Health Records (EHRs) to achieve specified improvements in care delivery.

According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine “…the federal government will commit unprecedented resources to supporting the adoption and use of EHRs. It will make available incentive payments totaling up to $27 billion over ten years, or as much as $44,000 (through Medicare) and $63,750 (through Medicaid) per clinician. This funding will provide important support to achieve liftoff for the creation of a nationwide system of EHRs.”


We have the incentive to create systems that can provide information that can lead to a breakthrough in a patient’s care and recovery. We have the necessary funds provided, at least partially. We have the skill to create, process, and display information in such a way that a skilled practitioner can provide the professional judgement that leads to quicker diagnosis and treatment. In turn, the care is quicker, cheaper, and more effective, which is the whole point of the current political debate.

Can it really be that simple? Do we just need to bring together the skill, the funding, and the professional expertise to make health care affordable and thus available? I think it boils down to just that. Do you work with electronic health records? Can better and more readily available information really create breakthroughs in this arena? Let me know your thoughts.


Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.

Sick of All This Data!

Stethoscope on laptopIt appears that there is a gap between the available information technology within healthcare and the adoption of that technology. What is behind this gap? Are health care professionals simply too busy to take advantage of new technology or are the current healthcare privacy laws preventing us from using networked information tools to their fullest?


We have been applying technology to healthcare and disease prevention for centuries but it is only in the last fifty years that we have applied technology to healthcare information collection and dissemination. The pace of introduction and adoption is accelerating and that is causing problems with healthcare professionals and healthcare IT professionals. On the one hand, the introduction of sophisticated healthcare record management applications brings a welcome relief to an industry facing increasing privacy and record management regulations but, at the same time, it is coming on top of an already full workload. How is a healthcare professional supposed to find the time to learn and master the new systems? What is the role of the healthcare IT professional? Are we doing all we can to simplify systems and interfaces in order to accelerate adoption?

Electronic Health Records

According to the Health Information and Management Systems Society, “The Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a longitudinal electronic record of patient health information generated by one or more encounters in any care delivery setting.” This includes information on past interactions with healthcare providers as well as current and past medication history. The aim is to make this information available through an electronic interface to any healthcare provider, whether a patient is seeing their primary provider or whether they become ill while vacationing in a foreign land. With great information, however, comes great responsibility, and thus legislation such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This creates the tension of providing available medical records through a secure and responsible infrastructure to strained healthcare providers who don’t have additional bandwidth to learn new systems and interfaces.

Interoperability of Health Care Records

Health IT will not achieve the predicted savings and efficiency until technology is more widespread and readily adopted according to a new Health Affairs report. Part of the issue of full adoption has to do with interoperability of health records. Right now, there is not a single standard for sharing health information, and vendors do not have a strong incentive to create a standard. If we couple difficult-to-use technology with the fact that a provider cannot see the full patient history across various health interactions, it is no wonder that health care professionals are reluctant to jump on board and embrace this exciting yet uncertain future.

The question then becomes: what can we do to accelerate the adoption rate of new healthcare technology and systems in order to make record keeping and retrieval easier for everyone?


About Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT topics that keep him up at night.