What is Health Informatics?
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With an increasing margin of overlap between the IT field and other areas of study, health informatics may be one of the most fruitful for enhancing the public good. The era of discretely defined subjects of inquiry is passing, giving way to a more interconnected and integrated way of thinking about the world. In the article below, we'll examine this trend in the therapeutic realm and explore the ways in which it will continue to be applied.
Defining the Future of Healthcare Research and Implementation
The term health informatics is one of many used to refer to the interdisciplinary study and application of IT-based systems, innovations, and solutions within the healthcare system. Similar terms, such as nursing informatics, biomedical informatics, medical informatics and others refer to the same highly integrated, interdisciplinary realm. If you're still a bit foggy on what it is, fear not.
Informatics of this type deals with optimization of storage and retrieval of data via programs and applications. It is less about the data and more about streamlining the accessibility of that data in a variety of different environments. Many different healthcare practitioners and research personnel have benefited from this field, since it renders access to statistics, practical information, and individual data far easier to access. Further, the IT aspect of this field has made substantial advancements in how we integrate and cross reference such domains, which were once trapped in discrete categories.
IT specialists who develop these systems often take aim at the way users—healthcare professionals, practitioners, and researchers—access data. They utilize a variety of different fields of knowledge, from behavioral science to natural language programming, to create systems that provide greater benefit to those who use them. Data mining, or using a large body of information from which answers to specific or novel questions are drawn, also informs the formation of new systems or approaches to application development.
The most basic way in which healthcare informatics has altered the public medical landscape is the digital storage and protected sharing capabilities of patient records. Since many individuals visit several healthcare providers over the course of their adult lives, keeping paper records as the main source of data is both unwieldy, costly, and can in some cases prove dangerous for patients.
But these errors are costly in more ways than one. It's estimated that physician errors cost upwards of $38 Billion per year. These may be due to a number of factors, such as misfiled instructions, unclear advice to patients, oversight of patient allergies, and other minor difficulties that tend to snowball. These issues are precisely those that informatics engineers and medical personnel work to mitigate. Integrated digitization of patient records and medical files not only lessens the likelihood of mistakes, but effectively lessens the burden on medical support staff. There is less need for unnecessary repeat blood work and other tests, since the results are well documented and easily accessed for reference.
In the past, wasteful repeat testing, physician error, and difficulty of access to patient records constituted much of the excessive cost to patients. Today, health informatics helps nurses, physicians, assistants, and clerical support staff to more easily access and cross reference the records of patients with bodies of medical data, past procedures and medications, and help patients to be active participants in their own care regimen.
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