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The Impact of Health Information Technology on the Medical Care Industry

The rise of health information technology (HIT) has transformed the healthcare industry, benefiting both providers and patients. Not only does it improve patient care, but it also aids communication, reduces costs and increases efficiency, and improves patient outcomes and involvement with their own care.

Why HIT is crucial to healthcare

It is important that information systems in healthcare be accessible to physicians, therapists, providers and healthcare organizations involved in patient care. The evolution of electronic health records (EHRs) has made patient data portable, enabling doctors, patients, and insurance companies to easily interact and share information – from prescription requests to patient scheduling and billing – in the office or on the go. The accessibility created by HIT:

  • Improves the quality of healthcare and safety by reducing errors and eliminating inconsistencies in medical documentation
  • Increases efficiency by allowing secure access from different locations
  • Provides the public with a strong healthcare information infrastructure
  • Encourages individuals to be proactive in managing their healthcare, making them engaged and informed consumers
  • Eases coordination of care leading to improved patient outcomes

How HIT coordinates medical coding and classifications

Medical coding streamlines the billing process as well as eases research, quality studies, and statistics. Medical codes also allows information systems to translate patients’ medical conditions into useful information that can assist healthcare providers recognize dangerous medication interactions, avoid treatments that can be harmful to the patient, and even offer suggested forms of treatment and link to current research and clinical treatment guidelines. One mistake with an improper code could mean a huge headache for the patient, healthcare providers, insurers, and researchers alike. The codes, detailed in the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10), are used world-wide. According to the World Health Organization, which created the ICD in 1948, it is the gold standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. ICD-10 has been clinically modified for use in the United States as medical coding is closely tied with reimbursement and public health initiatives. As such, the version used in the U.S. is called ICD-10-CM/PCS. In addition to ICD-10-CM/PCS codes, CPT® codes, the five-character Current Procedural Terminology codes, are the U.S. standard for the way medical professionals report medical, surgical, laboratory, radiology, anesthesiology and E/M (evaluation and management) services. Because of HIT, medical professionals around the world can code symptoms, procedures, diagnoses and prescriptions electronically. This streamlines patient care by having information that is easily accessible, secure, complete, and accurate.

HIT’s role alongside medical equipment technology

Telehealth would not have been possible without health information technology. Because of the advances in HIT, doctors can hold video conferences with their patients or colleagues across the globe on tablets and smartphones. Doctors can access drug information, EHRs, research and studies instantly because the information is available on their personal devices. There are apps that show x-rays and CT scans – and even detect cancerous tumors. The integration of telehealth and medical equipment technology has made robotic surgeries possible. The physician can perform a minimally invasive surgical procedures remotely with the help of robotic devices.

The importance of HIT in precision medicine

Doctors are discovering that medical treatments are not “one size fits all,” and they are seeking ways to find the best treatments for their patients. A vast array of data – EHRs, genetic panels, metabolites (chemical makeup) and microorganisms present on and in the body, and environmental and lifestyle information – can all make a difference in patient therapies. The information needs to be stored in a searchable database and categorized properly to be useful. Having a solid information system in healthcare is absolutely necessary for precision medicine to be useful and ultimately provide better healthcare that is also more affordable.

The increasing demand for health information technicians

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for medical records and health information technicians is growing faster than average. As the HIT field expands – partially due to an aging population requiring additional medical care – more knowledgeable employees will be needed to code, input, and manage data. Northwestern College offers an associate’s degree program in health information technology that can put you on the fast track to an in-demand career.

Why a Northwestern College degree makes a difference

The Northwestern College health information technology degree program integrates two of the more profitable healthcare industry options – coding and health information technology – and can prepare you for your career in two years when studying full time; online options exist for students with current work or family obligations. Meeting national requirements, as well as employer expectations, the program is multi-faceted. You learn what you need to know about medical coding, health information supervision, financial resource management, legal and ethical issues, healthcare statistics, quality assessment and the components of electronic health record systems. Because your hands-on program includes a required externship, you will have experience in the real world before you accept that important first job. When you complete your training, as a health information technician you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology
  • Apply health record documentation guidelines and regulations
  • Collect, maintain and ensure accuracy of the health data
  • Interpret medical law and evaluate ethical standards
  • Show an understanding of health informatics

Study for your associate’s degree in health information technology from Northwestern College, and you’ll be on track to a promising future.