Thursday, June 9, 2011

IT Drives the Future of Health Care

An article on last week brought a smile to my face regarding the promise of information technology in improving a sector of the economy that will impact all of us to a greater degree over the next two decades: health care.

For all the concerns surrounding the delivery of health care -- costly defensive medicine, data privacy, coordinated care, the rising cost of insurance, and health care reform among them -- technological innovation looms as a key to the solution.

The article profiled a Texas hospital system's use of iPads and iPhones and how they're allowing doctors and nurses to have more face time with patients, rather than sit behind a computer at a nurses' station inputting data. Just think of it for a minute: Nurse or doctor visits patient, records blood pressure and medication changes on a tablet, which updates the patient's electronic medical record so that it's easily viewable the next time another nurse or doctor checks in with their tablet.

More of the same can be done for patients receiving health care at home, since it removes some of the stress from the nearest hospital that would otherwise have admitted the patient. That allows the hospital to devote more time to tend to patients who need more acute care, thus removing costs from the system. That can slow the rate of increases in health insurance premiums or, even better, lower them.

It's already happening and we should expect more of it. Information technology is at the forefront of this change and will play an even bigger part going forward, especially after the federal government announced this week that it's investing nearly $5 million in projects that support innovations in research, and encouraging health care IT development through such mechanisms as prizes and challenges.

If innovation and improved service delivery in IT can improve health care while controlling costs, especially as the Baby Boomers age, it's hard to see how anyone loses.

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