The field of healthcare is hugely significant for the way in which modern life is conducted. The growth of digital media and the adoption of computers and digital records heralded a massive shift for the healthcare field, as increased efficiency translated to better care for patients. This is a sample essay on healthcare information systems.
The need for data sharing in healthcare
The field of healthcare is ripe to experience an explosion in terms of technological innovation. As businesses are moving their data and software to large vendors to manage it, healthcare is soon to follow. This shift towards delivering software and applications over the internet has been coined as cloud computing. The major benefit of it has been that data is much more accessible. Similarly, large medical organizations have to rely on other medical organizations and their data in order to conduct business. While much energy and money has been spent on this behalf, it is still ripe for innovation. Mainly, the way that medical data is structured and how other companies can access and use it is still primitive. Legacy systems and technological means still dominate the way in which medical organizations do business. With focusing on data-sharing in the cloud, medical organizations can lower costs and deliver better patient care while still retaining their privacy and data integrity.
Today’s healthcare IT systems
Unfortunately, today’s healthcare IT systems still rely on legacy software applications that make it difficult to move data in and out of its servers. Aside from the security and regulatory standards set forth by HIPAA, the landscape of technological methods is largely fragmented (Walker, 2005). While it is easy to input information in the form of records, other companies have to build custom software applications that can pull data from other medical organizations. Despite innovations like XML data programming, which structures data on the internet that is easily shared, the medical healthcare industry has not adopted it because of the lack luster security methods involved (Seligman, 2001). These systems are extremely complicated, even for those already well versed in IT.
Because of the secure nature of private medical information, the problem of authentication and security has been a formidable challenge for companies looking to utilize data from different sources. Naturally, the most effective storage method for large scale data sets has been databases, which were predicted long ago to
“dominate critical enterprise data management in the foreseeable future” (Seligman, 2001, p. 3).
Surely, while this has come to fruition, the way in which medical data is shared has not changed much. Systems are largely closed and companies must spend lots of money to build applications that will accomplish the task.
Innovation in sharing data
Innovation in data sharing is seen as a high priority for many companies that are involved in the medical industry. In order to remain competitive, companies must work hard in order to find new ways to reduce costs, deliver better patient care and offer the best service possible. A major source of innovation has been and will continue to be in the way that data is stored and shared.
According to David Cutler and Wendy Everett (2010) in Thinking Outside the Pillbox — Medication Adherence as a Priority for Health Care Reform,
“data and data infrastructure that support interventions to boost adherence need to be a high priority in the country’s new investment in health information technology (HIT) and electronic health records” (p. 1554).
That is, the way in which companies build their IT infrastructure needs to be centered on this new model of data sharing and freedom in order to reduce costs and make sure that patient care is a number one priority. This would be a vast improvement on a system some already call “deadly”. Adhering to a new model of data transparency and building quality infrastructure around data sharing can yield exciting new opportunities for medical organizations.
Implications of better data sharing. Better sharing of data can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line when it comes to spending. According to a report about data sharing done by Jan Walker et al (2005), healthcare providers could save roughly eighty billion dollars on IT costs by adopting a newer model of data sharing: that’s almost five percent of the total US healthcare spending market in 2003 (p. 6).
However, this would require many different organizations working together towards a unified goal of making an open and accessible standard for sharing data and medical records. Nonetheless, Walker et al (2005) strongly argued “that a compelling business case exists for national implementation of fully standardized HIEI [data sharing methodology]” (Walker, 2005, p. 6). Not only would this be innovative, but it would result in smoother and more robust operations for organizations in every part of the medical industry ecosystem. Cutler (2010) agreed that a new and innovative model of data transparency can yield terrific benefits:
“The bottom line is this: We’ve known for some time that improved adherence can lead to improvements in health outcomes and reductions in health care spending” (Cutler, 2010, p. 1555).
Better health care?
It is also important to consider the implications for better healthcare as well. Consider the case of Community Care of North Carolina, “a loose affiliation of 14 physician networks serving Medicaid and uninsured patients”: this type of data sharing could be implemented with aspects of Obamacare. this medical organization sought out to develop a strategy where all of their data could be shared easily across their entire network of operations (Cutler, 2010, p. 1554). While this specific case study utilized several innovative methods in order to deliver better patient care, building a new and integrated technological infrastructure was instrumental to their success.
The results suggested that having easier access to everyone else’s data and patient medical records with accuracy was pivotal: “studies point to improved adherence and outcomes among patients with particular conditions, such as HIV infection, AIDS, and heart failure. The success stories are there, though they are still scattered” (Cutler, 2010, p. 1554). Clearly, there are benefits to sharing data and this is just one example of a few affiliated medical offices that worked together on the initiative. The benefits that could be yielded from a national effort to build a new standard would be even more beneficial.
Other healthcare recommendations
In light of this evidence, I believe that it is important to consider some of the available options that are ready to tackle this amazing opportunity. Oracle Corporation, the maker of database software, business and enterprise resource planning applications, has published numerous white papers that outline how their innovative approach can help make true universal data sharing among hospitals a reality. In a recent white paper by John O’Rourke (2011) and colleagues, the researchers highlighted the importance of data in the medical industry, especially when it came to how it was collected, structured and shared. Oracle remarked that their enterprise resource planning software offerings come built with tools for applications developers to make data easily accessible through its ubiquitous programming language called Java (O’Rourke, 2011).
Moreover, this ‘middleware’ is built on an open standard that every company can use and implement without paying lots of money for custom development. Mainly, the white paper boasted how data can be easily moved in and out of the application. Consequently, I would suggest moving forward with utilizing a vendor such as Oracle or Salesforce.com in order to develop a new standard for data sharing across different medical providers.
Naturally, senior management is going to play an integral role in helping choose the best course of action for any medical organization. However, it is important to recall that management teams must be aware of the total cost savings that they can have with implementing new systems of data sharing through authenticated feeds. Oracle’s whitepaper remarked that
“organizations often spent more time in reconciling the variances in reports than in actually understanding the data on the reports” (O’Rourke, 2011, p. 6).
As a result, senior management must play an active role in aligning the different facets of their business along technological lines. This will enable them to do their job easier by having access to financial and other forms of data. Ultimately, it is up to senior management to pick the right tools in order to get the job done. For senior managers that are not tech savvy, it may be important for them to educate themselves on the new emerging trends in healthcare IT as well as keeping up with the latest innovations.
Data sharing across medical organizations is a major piece of innovative technology that can result in reduced costs and better patient care. While the early 2000’s brought many new ways for companies to share data with one another, the healthcare industry has struggled to keep up with the demands that are required to reduce costs and make data readily accessible. Sharing data through innovative feeds that meet security regulations would make healthcare easier for patients and providers as a whole.
I recommended moving forward with using Oracle Corporation’s enterprise resource planning suite of applications and software that is built on its world-class Java based middleware because it allows for developers to make data more accessible. Senior management will play an integral role in making sure that they understand the cost savings implications and relevance of following such enduring trends.
Cutler, David, and Wendy Everett. “Thinking Outside the Pillbox: Medication Adherence as a Priority for Health Care Reform.” The New England Journal of Medicine 362.17 (2010): 1553-1555. Print.
O’Rourke, John. “Profitability and Cost Management in Healthcare.” Oracle White Papers March (2011): 1-14. Print.
Seligman, Len. “XML’s Impact on Databases and Data Sharing.” IEEE June (2001): 1-9. Print.
Walker, Jen, Eric Pan, Douglas Johnston, and David Bates. “The Value Of Health Care Information Exchange And Interoperability.” Center for Information Technology Leadership June (2005): 1-9. Print.