Information Technology (IT) allows health care providers to collect, store, retrieve, and transfer information electronically.
Health IT is used in a variety of settings: in-patient (hospital, long-term care), out-patient (ambulatory), public health; and others. Examples of health IT include:
Electronic Medical Records (EMR: has the potential to make health information more available to providers and patients when they need it. The availability of lab and radiology reports, patient-specific histories, and clinical reminders have the potential to improve quality.
Computerized provider order entry (CPOE): is typically a medication ordering and fulfillment system. More advanced CPOE will also include lab orders, radiology studies, procedures, discharges, transfers, and referrals.
Clinical decision support system (CDSS): provides physicians and nurses with real-time diagnostic and treatment recommendations.
Bar coding: used for medication (for example, matching drugs to patients by using bar codes on both the medications and patients’ arm bracelets)
Automated dispensing machines (ADMs): this technology distributes medication doses.
Electronic materials management (EMM): Health care organizations use EMM to track and manage inventory of medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and other materials.
Interoperability: this concept refers to electronic communication among organizations so that the data in one IT system can be incorporated into another.
The potential benefits of health IT are enormous. Appropriately implemented and utilized IT can enable better access to healthcare services and information, resulting in improved healthcare outcomes and cost savings. The kind of technology used varies by setting. For example, in home health, the use of technology that allows patients to monitor their own vital signs from their home and communicate results to the agency could increase the ability to address a problem before a patient requires acute care.