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Health and Information Technology

Updated on March 21, 2014

Introduction

The dependence on humans to collect, store and retrieve information from filing cabinets in storage rooms has outlived its time. However, in the past and for many years people have been considered as the masterminds behind skilfully documenting and organising patients’ medical history within the Public Sector. As such, properly alphabetised information is not always guaranteed since, humans are susceptible to errors. It might therefore become a challenging task when the information is attempted to be retrieved for future and urgent purposes. If the information is poorly organised then quick retrieval is not guaranteed especially when there is an emergency and a patient is waiting for their medical history.

Filling Cabinets are considered as the main medium used to store patients information. These consist of large stocks of papers which are tightly compacted. Thus, the number of filing cabinets within the main offices of public health sectors had increased and the demands for additional storage space led to the generation of more storage space.

Inevitably, over a period of time these filing cabinets will gather dust and when the information is to be retrieved it might create havoc, as huge clouds of dust might emerge while workers attempt to meticulously search for patients files. In addition, based on the fact that these cabinets consist of papers, time will take its toll on them. Dust particles gathered within the storage room will advance the obliteration of the papers which consists of important documented information.

The task of retrieving, storing and collecting information might become more tedious and time consuming with an increase in population. As a result, the hospital might have to consider a more modern form of storing information. One option that could be considered is Information Technology. Information Technology currently dominates business sectors such as factories and offices. It most certainly gets the job done by decreasing the dependency of the number of workers needed as well as the number of storage rooms that would be required. What would be the case of the public health sector? It is interesting to investigate the likely impact this modern and efficient method of file retrieval can have on the sector.

Health Informatics

Revision of various literature

The term health informatics was coined to describe information science, computer system and health care that requires the use of devices and methods to optimize the acquisition, input, storage retrieval and the use of information in health and biomedicine information technology in the health care system (Cox, C. A. (n.d.). Health Informatics, eHow.). The issue associated with the use of information technology has been explored by various writers. Some of these literatures are entailed in the following paragraphs .These sources will illustrate the significance as well as the disadvantages associated with the use of health informatics.

The use of health informatics within hospitals has the ability to produce better patient care outcomes by: introducing patient safety measures as well as decreasing their average length of stay. This was further reinforced based on a survey conducted. Which proved that by using health informatics, each patient’s privacy was maintained and patients were easily discharged through medication management which was documented electronically (Clinical Rounds, 37(10), 34-35). Thus, reducing the amount of time it would normally take to retrieve patients’ information documented electronically rather than writing information on bundles of paper which will eventually become lost amongst large clusters of paper .Thus, the retrieval of information through this method will become difficult. One main invention responsible for the easy retrieval and storage of information is called the Electronic health record system. This system is used to store information electronically. It is geared towards providing easily accessed information and it is envisioned as a part of an automated order entry and patient tracking system, providing real time access and patient data (Shortliffe, E. H. (2005).Health affairs, 24(5)).

Furthermore, due to the fact that an electronic health record is a system which specialises in information stored digitally. It allows information to be shared easily among various health care providers. So, for example, “if a patient visits a dermatologist and an asthma specialist in addition to the primary care doctor, all these doctors (and their nurses and other caregivers) will see the same records. If one doctor orders a lab test, they all see the results. If one doctor puts a patient on a new medication, the others get to see what it is” Electronic Health Records [Editorial]. Teen’s health, 1). This is good for the patient, because there's less chance of one doctor prescribing a medication that could adversely interact with another medication and cause problems.

While there are benefits associated with the collection and inputting of data into an electronic based system, the disadvantages do exist where information can be assessed by unauthorised persons. Cybercrime is a form of system penetration which commonly refers to the ability to steal personal information stored on computers (Hebda. T, Czar. P, Mascara. C, (2005), Handbook of Informatics for Nurses and Health Care Professionals (3rd .ed.). United States of America: Julie Levin Alexander). Information stolen exposes patients confidential information, increases the risk of identity theft and the likelihood of lawsuits to the health care institution (Computer software limited, (2012). The effects of cybercrime, retrieved February 16, 2013, from http://www.anl.com/pages/feature.htm). Cybercrime is an unavoidable act since all systems are subjected to being hacked.

This threat however, can be mitigated by the presence of firewalls; firewalls are software/ hardware systems used to screen incoming and outgoing network traffic for breaches in predetermined rules.

Another disadvantage identified with the use of health informatics is that it does not integrate other information that are often collected by the hospital such as financial data. This is mainly because of how application portfolios are structured as well as the fact that electronic health records is unable to integrate financial data with the provider system. (Kherson-Pour. M, (2006). Emerging Trends and challenges in Information Technology (Vol. 1). United States of America: Idea group publishing).

Confidence in the management of information system in regards of safeguarding patient’s information was initiated by the Jamaican Government. The data protection act in 2012 was instituted to regulate the use of personal information compiled on patients. The initiative is in collaboration with the Human employment and resource training programme(HERTP) / National Training Agency (HEART Trust/NTA).Heart is on the verge of developing training programmes, up to the equivalent of level three certification known a Business Processes Outsourcing (BPO) programme. Training students in the BPO programme will assist to counteract cybercrime and other means of hacking into people’s personal information stored electronically. According to the Jamaica Observer the Jamaican Government will be establishing a single Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Regulator by 2013/14 in order counteract any malicious act of invading individual personal file (Henry, B. (2012, August 14). Personal data protection law coming this year. Jamaica Observer.)

Various literatures believe that Information Technology has flaws and there are security risks associated with it.However, the fact still remains that Information technology in many ways allows information to be easily accessed by work personnel Thus, reducing the amount of time it would take to obtain information, rather than if it was to be retrieved and stored manually on paper.

Questionnaires were used to collect information about the importance of Information Technology within the hospitals

The use of Health Informatics in the Public Health Sector was explored by various sources. These sources revealed how health informatics assisted health personnel to function more effectively within hospitals. Both primary and secondary sources were utilised during this research. Questionnaires were classed as a primary source of data collection while sources such as journals, articles, newspapers, webpages and books were classed as secondary sources.

A questionnaire consists of a list of questions that is usually printed, submitted for replies and analysed for usable information .Questionnaires were selected as a form of data collection because it is easy to analyse as well as the fact that it discourages biased and prolonged comments. As such, thirty questionnaires were formulated and issued to nurses on various wards of the Spanish Town Hospital. These questionnaires were collected a few days later and assessed based on the responses obtained, the questionnaires were declared to be valid. The researcher strongly believes this because each nurse has already been exposed to the use health informatics. Additionally, it is listed as a part of their course outline as a nurse.

Information was taken from various secondary sources and analysed .The first source was cited from “Clinical Rounds” which was written by Alden Solovy. Alden Solovy is an executive editor and publisher of Hospitals & Health Networks and because of these experiences he possess, the information taken from Clinical Rounds is deduced to be reliable. Health Affairs, the second cited source was written by Edward Shortliffe. Edward Shortliffeis a biomedical informatician, physician and a computer scientist. Thus, the information taken from Health Affairs can be classified as reliable due to the fact that it was provided by an author who has experience in the field of health informatics. Likewise, Toni Hebda writer of “Handbook of Informatics for Nurses and Health Care Professionals” and Mehdi Khosrow-Pour the writer of “Emerging Trends and challenges in Information Technology” (Vol. 1) both teaches health informatics .Thus, the information provided by both authors are classed as reliable because they are experience in the field of health informatics and are more viable to indicate the risks associated with health informatics.

The article Electronic Health record did not cite the author who had compiled its information. However, based on the fact that its information was provided by Nemours Foundation, a non-profit organisation that supports clinical researches in order to improve health care .The information was said to be reliable. The information included in the Jamaica Observer was written by, Balford Henry.He is a senior reporter of Jamaica Observer. As such, his high rank as a senior reporter demonstrates that he is experienced .This an indication that he has mastered the skills required to accurately interpret information he has compiled. Thus, the researcher believes that Balford Henrys’ compiled information about the government strategy of counteracting cybercrime is indeed reliable.

In conclusion, both secondary sources and primary sources were assessed. It was deduced that questionnaires provided valid information while Clinical Rounds, Health affairs, Handbook of Informatics for Nurses and Health Care Professionals, Emerging Trends and challenges in Information Technology (Vol. 1), Electronic Health recordand the Jamaica Observer each illustrated that they possessed reliable information based on the fact that their information was provided and compiled by experienced authors.

Analysis of Data

Illustrating the similiarities and differences that each source of Information share with each other, about Health and Information technology,in order to reinfo

The researcher aims at discovering how information technology impacts data collection and retrieval of information within the public health sector. Some of the sources obtained revealed various aspects relating to health informatics. Additionally, the presentation of findings has reinforced that health informatics plays a significant role in the retrieval and collection of data. Surprisingly, the results obtained from the present study corresponded with the sources found in the literature review. The study reveals that Health informatics is a highly recommended form of data collection. Health informatics aids to increase how productive a hospital operates, through providing a system which arranges patients name and their medical history in alphabetical order. This, makes more time available in order for nurses to facilitate better patient care outcome, instead of wasting time on compiling medical information, when all the hectic work could be left to be dealt with by health informatics.

Despite, the fact that health informatics promotes productivity, majority of the respondents indicates that electronically health records; a type of system which facilitates health informatics does not have the capacity to record financial data. Additionally, the researcher believes that this flaw will be costly to adjust, especially when it comes to installing systems which caters to both health informatics, as well as storing financial data.

Various sources cited in the literature review share the same view, as the results indicated in the presentation of findings. Alden Solovy, the author of Clinical Rounds emphasised that health informatics plays a critical role in hospitals by decreasing the amount of time it would usually take to store and retrieve information. Similarly, Edward Shortliffe the writer of Health Affairs shared the same view. He indicated that an Electronic Health Record System could be used to make retrieval of information in hospitals more accessible. As a result, the work environment within the hospital will run smoother.

Likewise, the article entitled Electronic Health Records supports the use of health informatics. It further reinforced this by indicating that health informatics allowed information to be easily shared amongst health personnel.

In contrast, there are various issues which surround the use of information technology within the hospitals, as revealed in the findings of this research. Toni Hebda, the writer of “Handbook of Informatics for Nurses and Health Care Professionals” believes that cybercrime diminishes the art of health informatics, because it has the potential to wreck patients’ confidentiality by using their personal information in malicious acts. Thus,it would be better to use a traditionally method to collect and store patients’ personal information, until final solutions for cybercrime has been discovered, instead of making the task of retrieval and storage of information easier for nurses at the expense of patients privacy. Though a final solution for cybercrime has not been discovered ,the newspaper article written by Balford Henry in the Jamaica observer indicated that cybercrime could be solved by increasing the number of workers trained to deal cybercrime, as a result, creating a stepping stone for the irradiation of cybercrime.

Another disadvantage was indicated by Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, the writer of “Emerging Trends and challenges in Information Technology” (Vol. 1). He believes that health informatics has been limited by its inability to store other information such as financial data. If health informatics was tailored to store other information such as financial data, it would make it easier for nurses to store this information, instead of switching from one data base to another.

In conclusion, the findings of this presentation research ,along with the sources consulted , revealed that health informatics remains the main method used to collect and retrieve information ,because it makes information easily available at your fingertip, despite the fact that health is affiliated with various disadvantages.

Analysis of Findings

The study uncovered vital information about the use of information technology in the health care system, to collect and retrieve information. The use of information technology within hospitals was intertwined into two words, known as health informatics. With the aid of health informatics, retrieval and storage of information has become easier.

A total of thirty nurses from the Spanish Town Hospital was surveyed, most of whom have been working with health informatics. A majority of the respondents (60%) agreed to use the system on a daily basis, while a minority indicated that that they use it on a fortnightly basis. Only a few was not experienced. This means the respondents were in a position to give pertinent views on the issue. The majority noted that the system was a welcomed one, as it made the retrieval of vital patients’ record quite simple and efficient. Only a few disagreed. Most agreed that the implementation of health informatics should be enhanced in most hospitals.

The main issue surrounding the use of health informatics is the fact that electronic health records cannot collect financial data. Majority of the respondents were in agreement with this, meanwhile few of the respondents believes that electronic health records is actually capable of collecting financial data. Another issue surrounding health informatics is cybercrime. However, based on Figure 5 in the presentation of findings, most of the respondents agree that they would use health informatics despite the fact that cybercrime is prevalent; meanwhile a few of the respondents would rather to desist from using health informatics. Only four our percent (4%) of the respondents remained unsure.

As a result of this, majority of the respondents believe that there is a need for more trained workers to combat cybercrime, meanwhile only a few of the respondents disagrees with this (See fig 6). Similarly, majority of the respondents believed that the government was not doing enough work to prevent cybercrime. Only a few respondents agree that the government is making enough effort. Another remedy identified to combat cybercrime was by installing software such as firewalls. Majority of the respondents agreed with this method, meanwhile only a small fraction of the respondents disagreed.

In conclusion, although the role of health informatics is associated with various disadvantages based on the responses obtained it can be declared that health informatics is on demand and has the capacity to make data collection and retrieval of information easier.

Health Infromatics in Jamaica

Conclusion

This research has revealed that the use of information technology within hospitals to retrieve and collect information is known as health informatics. Health informatics provides easily accessed information which can be shared amongst health care givers. However, certain aspects of the use of information technology as a form of data collection decrease the reliability of electronic devices such as electronic health systems. These include its inability to store financial data as well as the random attacks enforced on its system by cybercrime. Software programmes are on the verge of tackling cybercrime. Based on the responses obtained in the presentation of findings the respondents believed that software programmes such as firewalls will aid to decrease cybercrime. The Jamaican government is also trying to solve this problem by training students on how to combat cybercrime. As a result, this will aid to contribute toward the metamorphosis of health informatics.

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