Health information technology is the use of different electronic systems to manage information concerning medical and health care groups as well as individual patients. Information technology enables health care providers to retrieve, collect, transform and store information electronically. Information technology has been proved to save time for health care providers, hence the importance of its adoption. The implementation of health information systems will enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of health care delivery through the provision of important tools such as clinical decision support systems, telehealth applications, and e-proscribing inside interoperable among others. Presently, one does not operate the paper-based health records system since it was replaced by the electronic health records systems. Talking about electronic health records system, it stores electronic records of an individual concerning information while conforming to nationally recognized interoperability standards. The process can be developed, controlled, and referred to by authorized staff and clinicians across some health care organizations (Oren, Shaffer, & Guglielmo, 2003).
The degree of using health information technology differs depending on the health setting. For instance, pharmacists are more versed than nurses, physicians and other staff in the use of technology. Patients who use health information technology are able to monitor their state of health and analyze any symptoms from their homes since they can link to health providers through networking, which facilitates communication. Moreover, through networking patients can report on any complications or if urgent actions are needed while at home. Both the nursing home setting and family health are controlled by information technology to complete records and capture patient health assessment in order to increase efficiency of health care provision (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, 2004b).
The significance of electronic health records is evident since they provide comprehensive security and manage health information when exchanging it between health professionals, patients and other organizations using health records during nationwide interoperable systems. Moreover, the provision of a better way of accessing and using health information enables health providers and patients to exchange information easily and safely. The use of information technology in health records is a good way to improve quality, efficiency, and safety of health care. In future, it is expected that health providers will fully adopt information technology in order to facilitate the use of electronic health information systems. Patients and health providers are required to seek detailed information from various sources in order to meet quality health care. It is also possible to improve health care while increasing access to secured health information by physicians, clinical technicians, nurses and those ready and willing to receive and use the right information concerning their patients (Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society, 2004a).
Health information technology will enable patients to obtain information in order to manage their conditions, and the ability to access health systems will improve the quality and efficiency of health care. Thus, in order to make information technology popular, individual health care providers should adopt it. Consequently, this will enhance connection between them while providing easy communication and coordination. In fact, it is possible to achieve facilitated communication through health care when exchanging information with the providers such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, clinical laboratories and imaging centers. Health care information infrastructure provides standards and networks that enable providers in a community to electronically share information. In addition, patients will have the opportunity to access information concerning their health condition from health care professionals. The main motive of applying clinical health information technology is its ability to improve health care of patients by health provides though easy access to health information and networked communication. The quality of health care depends on information available to nurses, physicians, patients and families. The information will be used to make decisions concerning the patient’s state of health. Moreover, health information is required in order to make decisions in relation to clinical evidence and guidelines that continually develop and change based on the conditions of patients. However, such problems can be solved through the application of information technology, which provides tools to integrate, store and update information. In addition, health information technology addresses the issues arising from a fragmented delivery system (Teich, Merchia, Schmiz, Kuperman, Spurr, & Bates, 2000).
Information technology is facing problems in investment, which hinders the ability of technology to change the culture and work processes as well as insure physicians, nurses and other staff to adopt information systems. Market aspects such as payment policies which reward quantity than quality and fragmented delivery of health care do not promote investment in information technology but rather hinder it. Thus, the situation can be improved through the policy makers, understanding the diffusion of information technology across health providers and its benefits to patients and health care in general (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2001).
Internet and information technology have a significant effect on customers since websites have promoted the availability of health information to patients and health providers, hence strengthening the decision made on health issues. Through the Internet, health providers have been able to post quality information to the concerned parties. Talking about the investment in information technology in hospitals, it is based on the hospital financial position. For instance, hospitals with stable financial position or enough capital invest information technology. The cost of application is another barrier to information technology. Implementation cost and operating cost vary depending on the hospital size and functions intended to be used when installed. The cost of implementation is higher than the purchasing price because it includes the cost of support systems and training. In general, the implementation and adoption of information technology by physicians is reluctant, which is the major problem preventing the improvement of collaboration between patients and health providers as well as the quality of health care.