What is Health Information Technology?

Harriette Halepis

Health information technology refers to technology in the form of an electronic database that could be used in place of paper to store medical information. This type of technology has many different benefits that can improve the lives of both patients and medical professionals. Still, there are some drawbacks to health information technology that must also be addressed.

Health information technology refers to a system that keeps electronic records about patients.
Health information technology refers to a system that keeps electronic records about patients.

By using complex computer storage systems, medical professionals could easily input patient information that can later be accessed by other medical professionals. Since many people visit with a range of medical specialists, shared patient knowledge would prevent medical errors such as the prescribing of conflicting medications. In addition, upon looking at a patient's virtual medical chart, medical professionals would not be tempted to try procedures that have already been administered.

Health information technology also serves a practical purpose. Unlike paper medical charts, electronic charts have a smaller chance of becoming damaged or lost in the wake of a disaster. This would prevent a large number of vital medical records from becoming destroyed when fires, floods, and other emergency situations occur. Also, the creation of a large medical record database would allow emergency room doctors to attend to a patient, even if that patient happens to be far away from their primary care physician.

Monetarily speaking, the creation of a large health information technology system would save governments a lot of money. Often, unnecessary medical procedures are performed solely based upon a lack of patient information. These procedures could be avoided if all medical specialists could have immediate access to a patients' medical records.

Aside from all of the positive aspects of health information technology, there is some concern that electronic medical files might not be entirely safe. Since patient information would be stored within a large electronic database, it is possible that this database could become subject to computer hacking. Further, any type of electronic database would be subject to computer errors, though these would likely be minimal when compared to possible human errors that already occur within the medical field.

The other major issue associated with the implementation of a large health database is the cost of the actual system set-up. This type of medical system would likely cost billions of dollars to create, though the benefits of this database may outweigh the actual cost. Presently, the framework for a health information technology system is available, though the actual system has yet to be constructed.

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