According to Allied Market Research, the healthcare information technology (IT) market was valued at over $250 million in 2020. If the current trends continue (even excluding any pandemic conditions), the projected value of this particular market might reach well over $880 million by 2030. That is an immense amount of growth, by any standard.
It is more than evident that cutting-edge IT has improved the healthcare industry. Blockchain has been making its way into this field for years now, and more and more medical experts are looking into cloud computing certification for their particular line of work. So, if you happen to have an interest in either IT or healthcare (or both), it’s instructive that you take a look at how the two are connected. This article will, therefore, serve as an excellent starting point for anyone interested in how IT is affecting healthcare in the early 2020s and beyond.
Health Information Technology in a Nutshell
Health information technology, abbreviated as HIT, refers to the safe and secure use of modern technology to manage all information related to health. In other words, it’s the practice of using digital data and current software to handle everything about one’s patients. The primary purpose of this field is to maintain the privacy of each individual patient while improving general care. To use an extremely oversimplified example, you can arrange and organize data far more efficiently by inputting it via keyboard rather than jotting it down on a piece of paper.
There are several common examples of HIT in practice. These include the following:
- Electronic prescriptions of meds and therapies
- Computerized disease registries
- Computerized provider order entry
- Clinical decision support systems or CDSSs
- Consumer health IT applications
- Electronic medical record systems (EHR, EMR, PHR)
Why Is HIT Significant?
As stated earlier, HIT benefits both the patients and the medical staff by keeping everything safe, secure, private, and streamlined. In addition, the whole process goes by swiftly and efficiently. Each patient record looks clean and organized. More importantly, it is easy to access by any new member of the medical staff (if the need arises).
If you want to go into specifics, the HIT is significant for the healthcare industry for the following reasons:
- It allows the medical experts to reach quicker decisions that benefit both the patient and the public in general when it comes to potential health risks.
- The information you gain through modern IT gives a more precise, clear, and accurate image of the patient’s health and is easy to customize according to each patient’s needs.
- It helps build social support networks for both patients and their families, as well as the medical staff and other related professionals.
- Communication between patients and healthcare professionals is easier and flows better than it would without HIT.
- All available info helps improve awareness about a specific health issue among the patients and the general public, including other healthcare experts.
Another major benefit of HIT is the inter-connectivity of everything. For instance, if a doctor needs an entire patient’s history, they can access it virtually and have everything at the push of a button. That includes past pharmacy records, test results, X-ray scans, and vital signs. In addition, nurses can get access to this medical history and help in spotting potential errors during their daily runs. More importantly, having the info on hand can help improve their own efforts with patients.
Potential Future Trends of Modern Healthcare and IT
In the past decade, virtual reality has been taking huge leaps forward. Both software and hardware VR tech continues to grow and develop. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not just a tool used by video game companies to make the experience more immersive. In fact, it’s been more than present in modern-day medicine as well.
From 2021 onwards, medical experts could use VR tech for a wide range of purposes, including:
- Helping memory care patients relive their past experiences more vividly
- Letting surgeons know where a potential procedure can go wrong through immersive visualization
- Educating patients and doctors-in-training about specific treatments or procedures
- Distracting patients who are undergoing complex procedures or are experiencing some level of discomfort
- Helping people build empathy by ‘experiencing’ a particular health condition through augmented reality
Telehealth refers to the practice of patients and doctors communicating via long distances using modern IT to discuss health issues and treatment. While it has already shown some early success, telehealth still has some room to grow, and its potential is huge.
Doctors, nutritionists, pharmacists, dentists, neurologists, psychiatrists, and other experts can talk to the patients directly using a device for remote viewings, like a tablet or a smartphone. Telehealth can save senior patients time and energy they would otherwise have to waste going to the hospital directly. Also, it means doctors would not need to make house visitations in order to see their patients.
5G will play a significant role in improving healthcare across the board. Its primary purpose will be to boost network capacity and speed while greatly reducing latency. Telehealth users will benefit from these boosts, since patients and doctors will have fewer conversation breaks and lags. In addition, sending large files will require less time than usual. That is crucial if two medical experts have to, for example, share high-quality images of X-ray scans or MRI readings. VR tech will also get a significant upgrade, as will the next topic of this section — artificial intelligence.
Much like VR, AI has been progressing in the past decades. Its potential within the healthcare industry is just as important to look into. For instance, a chatbot or a wearable device can help a patient take better care of themselves. Such tools, combined with top-tier algorithm software, will allow people to spot early symptoms of an illness. Disease prevention will vastly improve, reducing the need for visiting a healthcare professional in the first place.
IT and Healthcare: A Few Closing Lines
HIT is an incredibly fast-growing field with lots of steps being taken in the right direction. Of course, it’s far from perfect and will require constant tweaking, based on the needs of both the patients and the experts. Hopefully, this article has shown you why it’s definitely worth investing in IT and how crucial it will be in improving our healthcare systems going forward.