Health care is the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in humans. Health care is delivered by practitioners in medicine, optometry, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, allied health, and other care providers. It also refers to the work done in providing primary care, secondary care, and tertiary care, as well as in public health.
Negative and Positive Impact of Computer Applications on Patient Care Background
Health information technology (IT) systems have the potential to reduce medical errors, but they are likewise capable of causing unexpected mistakes if poorly implemented, according to a new study by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). In Health IT and Patient Safety: Building Safer Systems for Better Care, the Committee on Patient Safety and Health IT examines the current state of patient safety through health IT and provides recommendations for future improvements to electronic systems. The adoption of health IT systems such as electronic health records (EHR) and computerized physician order entry (CPOE) does not guarantee an increase in patient safety. According to the authors, these systems themselves pose a risk to patients: In fact, health IT can be a contributing factor to adverse events, such as the overdosing of patients because of poor user interface design, failing to detect life threatening illnesses because of unclear information displays, and delays in treatment because of the loss of data. Adverse events, such as these, have led to serious injuries and death. Traditionally, the process of organizing, storing, integrating, and retrieving medical and patient information has been paper based. But paper-based systems are inefficient for managing enormous amounts of medical and patient information that can affect patient care. For example: The conventional medical record may be illegible because it is hand written and poorly organized, making it difficult for physicians to locate the information they need about past medical tests and their results. Patients who visit more than one health care provider have several medical records, which often are not shared with other physicians, laboratories, and hospitals. Patient information then becomes fragmented, which can cause delays, disruptions, or errors in patient care.
The information technology system is providing new ways for providers and their patients to readily access and use health information, information technology (IT) has the potential to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care. However, relatively few health care providers have fully adopted IT. Low diffusion is due partly to the complexity of IT investment, which goes beyond acquiring technology to changing work processes and cultures, and ensuring that physicians, nurses, and other staff use it. In addition, certain aspects of the market—such as payment policies that reward volume rather than quality and the fragmentation of care delivery—do not promote IT investment, and may hinder it. Because of its potential, policymakers need to better understand how information technology is diffusing across providers, whether action to spur further adoption is needed, and if so, what steps might be taken.
Despite considerable attention to the topic, much remains unknown about the role of IT in the health care setting. What types of IT are being used? What is the link between use of IT and quality improvements? How much investments have hospitals and physicians already made in information technology, and in what kinds? What factors drive IT investments (e.g., financial returns, quality improvement goals, other factors)? What factors hinder IT investments and implementation (e.g., work flow changes, lack of compatibility with other IT, costs)? What current steps are being taken by public and private entities to encourage further diffusion of IT? What additional actions...
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