Technology is a large component of our everyday lives. Many of us use computers for our jobs, our cellphones to communicate, and security systems to protect our families. This all is a form of information technology as it is a way of storing, retrieving or sending communications. This usually refers specifically to computers and telecommunications, which is where it can differ from health information technology or HIT. Let’s talk about and define health information technology, what benefits it provides, and how HIT impacts patient privacy.
What is health information technology, or HIT?
Health information technology, as provided by HealthIT, refers to “the electronic systems health care professionals – and increasingly, patients – use to store, share, and analyze health information.” There are a variety of HIT tools that are used in the medical industry, some of those include:
- Electronic Health Records (EHRs): An EHR system allows a practice to store all of those paper charts in one place, digitally. It enhances patient safety by placing a full view of a patient’s medical history in front of a provider during a visit. These systems also enable interoperability. A primary care provider easily sends information to a specialist as care is needed when using a certified EHR.
- Electronic Prescription Systems (e-Prescribing): A paper prescription can lead to many human mishaps or even criminal activity. Paper prescriptions may be misread or lost in transit from practice to pharmacy. Providers can also have their DEA number stolen and used for criminal activity. e-Prescribing allows providers a more streamlined way to provide patients with the medications they need without exposing themselves to outside threats or excess work.
- Digital Patient Intake Solutions: A digital patient intake solution allows your patients to submit health information, questionnaires, and other data. Often, this data directly imports into your EHR system, depending on solution vendor. This HIT tool enables patients to share information prior to arriving at your practice.
- Data Privacy and Security: Each of these systems help keep health information safe through electronic safeguards and data encryption. Systems like EHRs also enable practices to limit views on who can see what in a practice to help keep information safe.
Why benefits are there to HIT?
Health information technology helps providers and practices manage caring for patients every day. It provides them with a means of care delivery, an efficient way to disseminate information across care teams, and a way to communicate with patients. Here are other benefits of HIT:
- Quick, accurate prescriptions: e-Prescribing limits the margin for error when it comes to prescriptions. It also limits the possibility for criminal activity when it comes to stealing DEA numbers. These prescriptions are also automatically sent off to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice directly after the provider hits “send” which allows for a patient to pick it up quickly and conveniently!
- Easy Information Sharing: When using HIT, everything is digital which means everything can be sent rapidly as needed across care teams. That means that test results can be seen by a provider as soon as they are available. This provides them with the most accurate depiction of a patient’s health so they can best treat them. If a provider or your practice is utilizing a patient portal, those types of results are available for a patient to view as well.
- Reduced Manual Work: One of the purposes of HIT is to streamline manual tasks and to create automation when possible. This means less paperwork, less paper charts clutter, and more processes that your systems can start, and maybe even finish or you!
How does health information technology impact patient privacy?
Many rules and regulations help to protect patient privacy when it comes to healthcare information, like HIPAA. It is the responsibility of the practice and their IT vendor to ensure security measures are taken and enforced at a practice to limit the possibility of threats from outside forces. The following are some ways practices can mitigate threats to HIT and patient health information (PHI):
- Limit Unnecessary User Access: Not everyone at your practice needs access to PHI. Have your super user lock down on access controls inside of your settings.
- Limit System Vulnerabilities: For many small practices, hiring and retaining an IT personnel is very unlikely. The role of updating, maintaining, and running any type of scans on a PC is usually left up to an office manager. While this is sometimes out of necessity, it can leave your practice vulnerable if scans, updates, or viruses are missed/not handled promptly. There are solutions out there that will perform a risk assessment for you, like Data Guardian Pros. Reducing vulnerabilities helps to keep your patients information and your practice documentation more secure.
- Cloud Vs. Server: While implementing a cloud based solution will not completely absolve your practice of vulnerabilities, it can limit them. For example, with MicroMD Cloud, we push all of the updates, ensure data is secure on multiple servers, and more to reduce threats to patient and practice data. With a cloud based solution, practices do not have to do manual updates, virus scans, etc.
Health information technology provides many solutions to practices to streamline tasks, secure data, and run an overall more efficient organization. What solutions are you already utilizing and which ones would you be interested in implementing? Let us know in the comments.
Are you interested in implementing an EHR system or exploring an add-on solution? Visit us today at micromd.com/marketplace or call us at 800.624.8832 for more information.
About the author,
Savanna is the Marketing Communication Specialist at Henry Schein MicroMD. She schedules emails to clients, prospects, and VARs, manages social media accounts, performs SEO research, writes blogs and eBooks, and much more while helping to support the simple yet powerful MicroMD solutions.
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